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.V LIFE'S SECEET. 



c»^ 



A LIFE'S SECRET 



A STORY 



MRS. HENRY WOOD 

ArriiOK UK 
"EAST LYSsr," "Tin: ciiannings," "joiinny ludlow," etc. 



O.'fE nUiVDRED A.VD ElffF.E.VT/I T/IOUSAXD. 



11 M 1 n 
MACMILL.VN AM) CO., Li.Minn 

NEW VOKK : THE MAC.MII.LAN CO.MPANV 



LoNboN : 
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND StiNS, IIMITED, 
^THKKT STAMFoKli STC.KET. S.E.. AND (JRKAT WINDMILL ;>TREF.T, W. 



CONTENTS. 



PART THE FIFuST. 

aiAPTUR I'Af.r. 

I. Was the Lady ISIau? ... ... ... • •> 

II. CHANT.ES ... . ... . . -7 

III. AWAT TO liONDOK ... ... ... • '•''•''> 

IV. Daffoiiil's Delight ... ... ... ;"'<> 

V. Mi.ss Cwi.vn's Vlsit ... ... .• ''7 

VI. Tkacked Home . . •*^"> 

\l\. Mb. Shuck at U«m: H»< 

\ [If. Five Thoisand Pounds I '-•> 

IX. The Sepaiiation of IIinter and Hi ntki: ... VM> 

I'ARr THE SE(X)XI). 

I. A i^lEETlNf, OF THE WOUKMEK ... . HH 

II. Called TO KETrrnronD .. ... ... lt'.f> 

III. Two Thousand Pounds iJ*"'- 

IV. Ar.iTATiON . . ... -'^7 



x\ CONTENTS. 



TAKT THE THIRD. 

(llAiTjn r\r,K 

I. A riiLMATiiii: Avowal ... . . ... ... ii2i) 

11. Ma. Cox ... ... ... 2I'J 

III. 'I THINK i HAVE BEEN A FoOL ' ... ... ... ii<J8 

IV. S'.MIJIOIIY "I'lTCHKD into" ... ... ... 'JDO 

\. A (ii.ixi.Mv chattkk ... ... ... ... ;;i 1 

\ I. '1 111: l.rni.K Uoy at IJe.st ... ... ... ^{'..'8 

\ 11. Mil. Dinn's Puitj DKOKJHT TO Matri P ... ... 33G 

NIII. A Descent F<jn Mh. Shvck ... ... ... '^'>^ 

I.K. On the Eve of Bankiui-ti v ... ;!7:5 

X. 'J'lii: Yeai!s c;oxe uv ... ... ... ... Il'.fJ 

Xr. llELIEK ... ... ... ... ... ... 112 

xii. < oNt LisioN ... ... ... ... ... vn 



PART THE FIRST. 



i Lile'« "iecre^ 



A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER I. 

WAS THE LADY MAD ? 



On the outskirts of Ketterford, a town of some note in 
the heart of England, stood, a few years ago, a white 
house, its green lawn, surrounded by shrubs and 
flowers, sloping down to the high-road. It probably 
stands there still, looking as if not a day hail pas.sc(l 
over its head since; for houses, unlike men and wtJUien, 
can almost be made to renew their youth again. A 
cheerful, handsome house, o? moderate .size, the resi- 
dence of Mr. Thornimett. 

At tlie distance of a stone's-throw, towards the open 
country, were sundry workshops and sheds — a largo 
yard intervening between them and the house. Thoy 
belonged to Mr. Thornimett ; and the timber and other 
characteristic materials lying about the yard would 
have proclaimed their owner's trade without tin- aid 
of the lofty sign-board — *' Richard Tlinniim. tt, lluildor 



4 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

and Contractor." llis business was a large one for 
a country town. 

Entering the house by the pillared portico, and 
crossing the black-and-white floor-cloth of the hall to 
the left, you came to a room whose windows looked 
towards the timber-yard. It was fitted up as a sort of 
study, or counting-house, though the actual business 
counting-house was at tlic works. Matting was on 
its floor; desks and stools stood about; maps and 
drawings, plain and coloured, W'ere on the walls; not 
finished and beautiful landscapes, fresh from the hands 
of modern artists, or descended from the old ma.sters, 
but skeleton dcsijjns of various buildinfjs — churches, 
bridges, terraces — plans to be worked out practically, 
not to be admired on paper. This room was chiefly 
given over to Mr, Thornimett's pupil : and you may 
see him in it now. 

A tall, gentlemanly young fellow, active and up- 
right; his name, Austin Clay. It is Easter- Monday 
in those long-past years — yet not so very long past, 
either — and the works and yard are silent to-day. 
Strictly speaking, Austin Clay can no longer be called 
a pupil, for he is twenty-one, and his articles are out. 
The house is his home ; Mr. and Mrs. Thornimett, who 
have no children of their own, are almost as his father 
and mother. They have said nothing to him about 
leaving, and ho has said nothing to them. The town, 
in its busy interference, gratuitously supposed that 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 6 

"Old Thomiraett would be taking him into partner^ 
fillip." Old Thomiraett had given no indication of 
his intentions one way or the other. 

Austin Clay was of gentle birth. Left an orphan at 
the age of fourteen, with insufficient moans to com- 
plete his education, Ketterford wondered what was to 
become of him, and whether he had not better get rid 
of himself by running away to sea. Mr. Thornimett 
stepped in and solved the difficulty. The late Mrs. 
Cla}' — Austin's mother — and Mrs. Thornimett were 
distantly related, and perhaps a certain sense of duty 
in the matter made itself heard ; that, at least, com- 
bined with the important fact that the Thornimett 
household was childless. The first thing they did was 
to take the boy home for the Christmas holidays; the 
next, was to tell him he should remain there for good* 
Not to be adopted as tiieir son, not to leave him a 
fortune hereafter, Mr. Thornimett took pains to explain 
to him, but to make a man of him, and teach him to 
earn his own living. 

" Will 3'ou be apprenticed to me, Austin ? " subse- 
quently asked Mr. Thornimett. 

"Can't I be articled, sir?" returned Austin, quickly. 

"Articled ?" repeated Mr. Thornimett, with a laugh, 
lie saw what was running in the boy's mind. Hf 
was a homely man himself; had built uj) his own 
fortune just as he bad built tlic new hou.sc he lived 
in; had risrii, in fact, as many a working man d<n;s 



6 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

rise : but Austin's fatlier had been a gentleman. 
" Well, yes, you can be articled, if you prefer it," 
he said; "but I shall never call it anything but 
apprenticed; neither will the trade. You'll liave to 
work, young sir." 

" I don't care liow hard I work, or what I do," cried 
Austin, earnestly. " There's no degradation in work." 

Thus it was settled; and Austin Clay became bound 
to Richard Thorniniett. 

" Old Thorniniett and his wife have done it out of 
charity," quoth Ketterford. 

No doubt they had. But as the time pa.ssed on 
they grew very fond of him. He was an open-hearted, 
sweet-tempered, generous boy, and one of them at least, 
Mr. Thorniniett, detected in him the qualities that 
make a man a])ovo his fellows. Privileges were ac- 
corded him from the first: continuing certain of his 
school duties, for which masters came to him out of 
business hours — chiefly drawing, mathematics, and 
modern languages — and Austin went on himself with 
Latin and Greek. "With the two latter Mrs. Thorni» 
mett waged perpetual warfare. Of what use would 
they be to him ? she was always asking, and Austin, 
in his pleasant, laughing way, would rejoin that they 
might hel[) to make a gentleman of him. He was that 
already : Austin Clay, though he might not know it, 
was a true-born gentleman. 

Had they repented their bargain ? He was twenty- 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 7 

one now, and out of his articles, or his time, as it Avas 
commonly called. No, not for an instant. Never a 
better servant had Richard Thornimett; never, ho 
would have told you, one so good. With all his 
propensity for being a "gentleman," Austin Clay 
did not shrink from his work ; but did it tlioroughl}'. 
His master in his wisdom had cau.sed liim to learn 
his business practically; but, that accomplished, he 
kept him to overlooking, and to other light duties, 
just as he might have done by a son of his own. It 
had answered well. 

Easter- Monday, and a universal holiday. Mr. 
Thornimett had gone out on horseback, and Austin 
was in the pupil's room. He sat at a desk, his stool 
tilted, one hand unconsciously balancing a ruler, the 
other supporting his head, which was bent over a book. 

"Austin!" 

The call, rather a gentle one, came from without 
the door. Austin, buried in his book, did not hear it. 

" Austin Clay i " 

He heard now, and started up. The door opened 
at the same moment, and an old lady, dicssccl Ju 
delicate lavender print, came bri.skly in. Ibr cap 
of a round, old-fashioned shape, was white as snow, 
and a bunch of keys hung from her girdle. It wa.s 
Mrs. Thornimett. 

"So you arc liere!".she exclaimed, advancing; with 
short, cpiick steps. "Sarah said she was sure Mr. 



8 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Austin ha<l not jxono out. And now, wliat do vou 
mean by tliis ?" slie added, bonding her spectacles, 
which she always wore, on his open book. " Confining 
yourself indoors this lovely day over that good-for- 
nothing Hebrew stuflT!" 

Austin turned his eyes upon her with a jjleasant 
smile. Deep-.set grey eyes they were, earnest and 
truthful, with a groat amount of thought in them for 
a young man. His face was a pleasing, good-looking 
face, without being handsome, its complexion pale, 
clear, and hoaltliy, and the hair rather dark. There 
was not much beauty in the countenance, but there 
was plenty of firmness and good sense. 

"It is not Hebrew, Mrs. Thornimett. Hebrew and 
I are strangers to each other. I am only indulging 
myself with a bit of old Homer." 

"All useless, Austin. I don't care whether it is 
Greek or Hebrew, or Latin or French. To pore over 
those rubbi.shing dry books whenever you get the 
chance, does you no good. If you did not possess a 
constitution of iron, you would have been laiil upon a 
Bick-bed long ago.*' 

Austin laughed outright. Mrs. Thornimett's pre- 
judices against what she called " learning," had l)CComc 
a proverb. Never having been troubled with much 
herself, she, like the Dutch professor told of by George 
Primrose, "saw no good in it." Slic lifted her hand 
and closed the book. 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 9 

" May I not spend my time as I like upon a 
holiday ? " remonstrated Austin half vexed, half in 
good-humour. 

" No," said she, authoritatively ; " not when the day 
is warm and bright as this. AVe do not often fjet so 
fair an Easter. Don't you see that I liave put off my 
winter clothing ?" 

" I saw that at breakfast." 

" Oh, you did notice that, did you ? I thought you 
and Mr. Thornimett were both buried in that news- 
paper. Well, Austin, I never make the change till 1 
think N\'arm weather is really coming in: and so it 
ought to be, for Easter is late this year. Come, put 
that book up." 

Austin obcj'ed, a comical look of grievance on his 
face. " I declare you order me about just as you <lid 
when I came here first, a miserable little muff of 
fourteen. You'll never get another like me, ^Iis. 
Thornimett. As if I had not enough outdoor work 
every day of the week ! And I don't know where on 
earth to jjo to. It's like tuiiiiu'' a hlluw cut (»f house 
aiid home." 

"You are going out for me, Austin. The master 
left a message for the Lowland Farm, and y<>u 
shall take it over, and icniain the day with 
tliem. They \\i!l malce as much of you as they 
would (jf a king. \\'hen .Mr-;. Milton was luTe tin.; 
otlier day, sIk^ complained that you never went over 



10 A LIFE'S SECRET, 

now ; sho said she supposed you were growing above 
them." 

"What nonsense!" said Austin, laughing. "Well, 
I'il go there for 3'ou at once, without grumbling. I 
like the Miltons." 

" You can walk, or you can take the gig : whichever 
you like." 

"I will walk," replied Austin, quickly, putting his 
book inside the desk. " What is the message, BIrs. 
Thornimett ? " 

" The message " 

Mrs. Thornimett came to a sudden pause, very 
much as if she had fallen into a dream. Her eyes were 
f'azinir from the Avindow into the far distance, and 
Austin looked in the same direction; but there was 
nothing to be seen. 

" There's nothing there, lad. It is my own thoughts 
that interrupted me. Something is troubling me, 
Austin, Don't you think the master has seemed very 
poorly of late ? " 

"N — o," replied Austin, slowly, and with some 
hesitation, for he was half doubting whether some- 
thing of the sort had not struck him. Certainly the 
master — as Mr. Thornimett was indiscriminately styled 
on the premises both by servants and workpeople, so 
that Mrs. Thornimett often fell into the same habit — 
was not the brisk man he used to be. " I have not 
noticed it particularly." 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 11 

"That is like the young ; they never sec anything," 
she murmured, as if speaking to herself. " Well, 
Austin, I liave ; and I can tell you that I do not like 
the master's looks, or the signs I detect in him. 
Especially did I not like them when he rode forth 
this morning." 

"All that I have observed is that of late he 
seems disinclined for business. He seems heavy, 
sleepy, as though it were a trouble to rouse him- 
self, and he comolaius sometimes of headache. But, 
of course " 

" Of course, what ? " asked Mrs. Thornimett. " Wliy 
do you hesitate ? " 

" I was going to say that Mr, Thornimett is not as 
young as he was," continued Austin, with some 
deprecation. 

"He is sixty-six, and I am 8i.\ty-three. But, 3'ou 
must be going. Talking of it, will not mend it. And 
the best part of the day is j)a.ssing." 

" You have not given me the message," ho said, 
taking up his hat which lay beside him. 

"The message is this," said Mrs. Thornimett, lower- 
ing hor voice to a confidential tone, rk h\\o glanctvl 
round to soe that the door was closed. "Tell Mr. 
Milton that Mr. Thornimett cannot answer f<»r tliat 
timber-merchant about whom lie asked. Tin' iiiasttT 
fears he might prove a slippery custoiin r; ho is a 
man whom he himself would trust as far as he could 



12 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

see, but no fartlior. Just say this into Mr. Milton's 
private ear, you know." 

" Certainly. I understand," replied the young man, 
turning to depart. 

" Yuu see now why it might not be convenient to 
despatch any one but 3'"0urself. And, Austin," added 
the old lady, following him across the hall, " take care 
not to make yourself ill with their Easter cheesecakes. 
The Lowland Farm is famous for them." 

" I will do my best," returned Austin. 

He looked back at her, nodding and laughing as ho 
traversed the lawn, and from thence struck into the 
open road. His way led him past the workshops, 
closed then, even to the gates, for Easter-Monday in 
that part of tlie country was a universal holiday. A 
few minutes, and he turned into the fields; a welcome 
change from the dusty road. The field way might bo 
a little longer, but it was altogether ])lea.santcr. 
Easter was late that year, as Mrs. Thornimett observed, 
and the season was early. The sky was Idue and 
clear, the day warm and lovely ; the hedges were 
budding into leaf, the grass was growing, the clover, 
buttercups, and daisies were springing; and an early 
butterfly fluttered past Austin. 

" You have taken wing betimes," he said, addressing 
the unconscious insect, " I think summer must be at 
liand." 

Halting for a moment to watcli the flight, he strode 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 13 

on the (flicker afterwards. Supple, active, slender, 
his steps — the elastic, joyous tread of youth — scarcely 
seemed to touch the earth. He always walked fast 
when busy with thought, and his mind was buried in 
the hint Mrs. Thornimett had spoken, touching her 
fears for her husband's health. " If he is breaking, it's 
through close attention to business," decided Austin, 
as he struck into the common and was nearing the 
end of his journey. "I wish he would take a jolly 
good holiday this summer. It would set him up ; and 
I know I could manafje things without him." 

A largo common ; a broad piece of waste land, 
owned by the lord of the manor, but appropriated by 
anybody and everybody ; where gipsies encamped and 
donkeys gi'azed, and geese and children were turned 
out to roam. A wide path ran across it, worn by the 
passage of farmers' carts and other vehicles. To the 
left it was bordered in the distance by a row of 
cottages; to the right, its extent was limited, and 
terminated in some dangerous gravel-pits — dangerous, 
because they were not protected. 

Austin Clay had reached the middle of the path and 
of the common, when he overtook a lady whom ho 
slightly knew. A lady of very strange manners, 
popularly supposed to be mad, and of whom ho onco 
stood in considerable awe, not to say terror, at wiiich 
he laughed now. She wji-s a ^liss Gwinn, a tall bony 
woman of remarkable strength, the sister of Uwijiii, a 



14 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

lawyer of Kcttcrford. Gwinn the lawyer did not bear 
the best of cliaracters, and Ketterford reviled him 
when tliey could do it secretly. " A low, crafty, dis- 
honest practitioner, whose hands couldn't come clean 
had he spent his days and nights washing them," was 
amidst the complimentary terms applied to him. Miss 
Gwinn, however, seemed honest enough, and but for 
her abrupt and quarrelsome manners Ketterford might 
have grown to feel a sort of respect for her as a woman 
of sorrow. She had come suddenly to the place many 
years before, and taken up her abode with her brother. 
She looked and moved and spoke as one half-crazed 
with grief: what its cause was, no one knew; but it 
v/as accepted by all, and mysteriously alluded to 
occasionally by herself. 

" You have taken a long walk this morning. Miss 
Gwinn," said Austin, courteously raising his hat as he 
came up witli her. 

She threw back her grey cloak with a quick, sharp 
movement, and turned upon him. " Oh, is it you, 
Austin Clay ? You startled me. My thoughts were 
far away: deep upon r^nothcr. He could wear a fair 
outside, and accost me in a pleasant voice, as you do." 

"That is rather a doubtful compliment, Mi.ss 
Gwinn," he rctui-ncd, in his good-humoured way. " I 
hope I am no darker inside than out. At any rate, 
1 don't try to appear different from what I am." 

" Did I accuse you of it ? Boy ! you had better go 



WAS THE LADY JlAD? 15 

and throw yourself into one of those gravel-pits and 
die, than grow up to be deceitful," she vehemently 
cried. " Deceit has been the curse of my days. It 
has made me what I am ; one whom the boys hoot 
after, and call " 

" No, no ; not so bad as that," interrupted Austin, 
soothingly, " You have been cross with them some- 
times, and they are insolent, mischievous little raga- 
muffins. I am sure every thoughtful person respects 
you, and sympathizes with your sorrow." 

" Sorrow ! " she wailed. " Ay. Sorrow, beyond 
that falling to the ordinary lot of man. The blow fell 
upon 7)ic, though I Avas not an actor in it. When 
those connected with us do wrong, we suffer ; wo, 
more than they, I may bo revenged yet," she added, 
her expression changing to anger. " If I can only 
come across him, I shall be." 

" Across whom ? " naturally asked Austin. 

•' Who are you, that you should seek to pry into 
my secrets ?" she passionately resumed. "I am fivo- 
and-fifty to-day — old enough to be your niothei-, and 
you presume to question me! Boys are coming to 
something." 

"I beg your pardon; 1 spoke heedlessly, Miss 
Gwinn, in answer to your remark. Indeed I have no 
wish to j)ry into any one's business. And as to 
'secrets,' I have eschewed them, since, a little chap 
in petticoats, I crept to my mother's room-door 



IB A LIFE'S SECREl*. 

to listen to one, and got soundly whipped for my 
pains." 

" It is a secret that you will never know, or any 
one else; so put ikn thought from you. Austin Clay,' 
she added, laying her hand upon his arm, and bending 
forward to speak in a whisper, " it is fifteen years, this 
very day, since its horrors came out to me ! And I 
have had to carry it about ever since, as I best could, 
in silence and in pain." 

She turned abruptly as she spoke, and continued 
her way along the broad path ; whilst Austin Clay 
struck short off towards the gravel-pits, his nearest 
road to the Lowland Farm. Silent and abandoned 
were the pits that day ; every one connected with 
them was enjoying holiday with the rest of the world. 
" What a strange woman she is ! " he thought. 

It has been said that the gravel-pits were not far 
from the path. Austin was close upon them, when 
the sound of a horse's footsteps caused him to turn. 
A gentleman was riding fast across the common, the 
opposite from which he and Miss Gwinn had come, 
and Austin shaded his eyes with his hand to see if it 
was any one he knew. No ; it was a stranger. A 
slender man, of some seven-and-thirty years, tall, as 
far as could be judged, with thin, prominent aquiline 
features, and dark eyes. A fine face ; one of those 
which impress the beholder at first sight, as it did 
Austin, and, once seen, remain in the memory for ever. 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 17 

- 1 wonder who lie is ? " cried Austin Clay to him- 
3elf. " He rides well." 

Possibly Miss Gwinn might be wondering the same. 
At any rate, she had fixed her eyes on the stranger, 
and they seemed to be starting from her head with the 
gaze. It would aj)pear that she recognized him, and 
with no pleasant emotion. She grew strangely excited. 
Her face turaed of a ghastly whiteness, her hands 
closed involuntarily, and, after standing for a moment 
in perfect stillness, as if petrified, she darted forward 
in his way, and seized the bridle of the horse. 

" So ! you have turned up at last i I knew — I knew 
you were not dead!" she shrieked, in a voice of wild 
raving. "I knew you would some time be brought 
face to face with me, to answer for your wickedness." 

Utterly surprised and jierplexed, or seeming to be 
BO, at this summary attack, the gentleman could only 
Btare at his assailant, and endeavcnir to release his 
bridle from her hand. But she lield it with a fiini 
grasp. 

" Let go my horse," he said. " Are you mad ? ' 

" You were mad," she retorted, passionately, " Mad 
in tho.se old days ; and you turned another to madnes.s. 
Not three minutes ago, I said to my.self that tlir time 
would come when I shouM find you. Man ' do you 
rcmendjcr that it is fifteen years ago this very ilay 
that the — the — crisis of the sickness came on ? Do 
you know that never afterward.s " 

A Ufc's Secret. 2 



1ft A LIFE'S SECRET, 

" Do not betray your private affairs to me," inter- 
rupted the gentleman. "Tliey are no concern of 
mine. I never saw you in my life. Take care! the 
horse will do you an injury." 

" No ! you never saw me, and you never saw some- 
one else ! " she panted, in tones that would have been 
mockingly sarcastic, but for their wild passion. " You 
(lid not change the current of my whole life! you did 
not turn another to madness ! These equivocations 
are worthy of you^ 

" If ycu are not insane, you must be mistaking me 
for some other person," he replied, his tone none of 
the mildest, though perfectly calm. " I repeat that, to 
my knowledge, I never set eyes upon you in my life. 
Woman ! have you no regard for your own safety ? 
The horse will injure you ! Don't you see that I can- 
not control him any longer ? " 

"So nuicli the better if he kills us both,"„ she 
shrieked, swaying to and fro with the fierce motions 
of the restive horse. " You will only meet your 
deserts : and, for myself, I am tired of life." 

" Let go ! " cried the rider. 

"Not until you have told me where you \\x*\ and 
where you may be found. I have searched for you in 
vain. I will have my revenge ; I will force 3'ou to do 
me justice. You " 

In her sad temper, her bliml obstinacy, she still 
held tlic bridle. The horse, a spirited animal, was 



WAS THE LADY MADV 19 

passionate as she was, and far stronger. He reared, 
kicked, plunged ; and, finally, he shook off tlie ob- 
noxious restraint, to dash furiously in the direction of 
the gravel-pits. Miss Gwinn fell to the ground. 

To fall into the pit would be certain destruction to 
both man and horse. Austin Clay had watched the 
encounter with amazement, though he could not hear 
the words of the quarrel. In the impulse of the 
moment, disregarding the danger to himself, he darted 
in front of the horse, arrested him on the very brink of 
the pit, and threw him back on his haunches. 

Snorting, panting, the white foam breaking from 
him, the animal, as if conscious of the doom he had 
escaped, now stood in trembling quiet, obedient to the 
control of his master. That master threw him.self 
from his back, and turned to Austin. 

"Young gentleman, you have saved my life." 

There was little doubt of tliat. Austin accepted the 
fact witliout any fuss, feeling as tliankful as tin- 
8})eaker, and quite unconscious at the moment of the 
wrench he had given his own slioulder. 

"It would have been an awkward fall," lie rctiiiiii(l. 
" I am glad I happened to be lierc." 

"It would have killed mc,^' rej)lie(l the stranger, 
ste])ping to the brink, and looking <lo\\n. "And your 
being hero must be owing to (Jod's ever-wntclif'id 
providence." 

Ho lifted his Iiut as he spoke, and leuiuined u 



20 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

moment or two silent and uncovered, his eyes closed. 
Austin, in tlie same imjniLsc of reverence, lifted his. 

" Did 3'ou SCO the strange manner in which that 
woman attacked me ? " questioned the stranger. 

" Yes." 

" She must be insane." 

" She is very strange at times," said Austin. " She 
flies into desperate passions." 

" Passions ! It is madness, not passion. A woman 
like that ouglit to be shut up in Bedlam. Where 
would be the satisfaction to my wile and family, if 
tlirongh her, I had been lying at this moment at the 
bottom there, dead ? I never saw her in my life 
before ; never." 

" Is she hurt ? She has fallen, I perceive." 

" Hurt ! not she. She could call after me pretty 
fiercely when my horse shook her off. She possesses 
the rage and strength of a titjer. Good fellow ! •nxxl 
Salem ! diil a mad woman frighten and anger you ?" 
added the stranger, soothing his horse. " And now, 
young sir," turning to Austin, "how shall I reward 
you? 

Afistin broke into a smile at the notion. 
" Not at all, thank you," he said. " One does not 
merit reward for sucli a thing a.s this. I should have 
deserved being sent after you, had I not interposed. 
To do my best way a simple matter of duty — of 
oblisation ; but nothing to be rewarded for." 



WAS THE LAPY MAD? 21 

'"Had he been a common man, I niii^lit liavc done 
it," thought the stranger ; " but he is evidently a 
gentleman. Well, I may be able to repay it in some 
manner as you and I pass through life," he said, 
aloud, mounting the now subdued horse, " Some 
neglect the opportunities, thrown in their way, of 
helping their fellow-creatures ; some embrace them, 
as you have just done. I believe that whichever 
we may give — neglect or help — will be returned to us 
in kind." 

"As to eiiibrac'iiig the ()]ipnrtuiiit\' — I should think 
there's no man living but would ha\t' di>ne liis lubt to 
save you, had he Ijocu standing lu-ic. ' 

" Ah, well ; let it go," returned the horseman. 
" Will you tell me 3-our name ? and something about 
yourself ? " 

"My name is Austin Clay. I have few relatives 
living, and they are distant ones, and I shall, I expect, 
have to make my own way in the Avorld." 

"Are you in any profession ? or business ? " 

" I am with Mr. Thornimett, of Ketterfoul : tliu 
builder and contractor." 

"Why, lama builder myself !" cried the .stranger, 
a pleasant accent of surpri.se in his tone. "Shall you 
ever be visiting London ? " 

"I dare say I .shall, sir. I .^houl^l likt' to do .so." 

"Then, when you do, mind you call upon me the 
first thing," he rejoined, taking a card from a case in 



22 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

his pocket and handing it to Austin. "Come to mo, 
Bhould you ever be in want of a berth : I might help 
you to one. Will you promise ? " 

" Yes, sir ; and thank you." 

" I fancy the thanks are due from the other side, 
Mr. Clay. Oblige me by not letting that Bess o' 
Bedlam obtain sight of my card. I might have her 
following me up to town." 

" Xo fear," said Austin, alluding to the caution, 

"She must be lying there to regain the strength 
exhausted by passion," carelessly remarked the 
stranger. " Poor thing 1 it is sad to be mad, though ! 
She is getting up now, I see : I had better be away. 
That town, in the distance, is Ketterford, is it not ? " 

" It is." 

" Fare you well, then. I must hasten to catch the 
twelve-o'clock train. They have horse-boxes, I pre- 
sume, at the station ? " 

" Oh yes." 

" All right," he noddeil. " I have received a sunnnons 
to town, and cannot afford the time to ride Salem 
home. So we must both get conveyed by train, oM 
fellow " — patting his hoi-se, as he spoke to it. " By 
the way, though — what is the lady's name?" he 
halted to ask. 

" Gwirin. Mi.ss Owinn." 

"Gwinn? Gwinn? Never heard the name in my 
life. Fare you well, in all gratitude.'* 



WAS rilR LADV MAD? 23 

He rode away. Austin Clay looked at the card. 
It was a private visithifj-card — " Mr. Henry Hunter," 
with an address in the corner. 

"He must be one of tiic ^jrcat London buiMinir 
firm, ' Hunter and Hunter,' " thought Austin, deposit- 
ing the card in his pocket. " First-rate people. And 
now for Miss Gwinn." 

For his humanity would not allow him to leave 
her unlooked after, as the molested and angry man 
had done. She had risen to her feet, though slowly, 
as he stepped back across the short, worn grass of the 
common. The fall had shaken her, without doing 
material damage. 

" I hope you are not hurt ? " said Austin, kindly. 

" A ban light upon the horse ! " slie iiercely cried. 
".\t my age, it does not do to be thrown to the 
ground violently. I thought my bones were broken ; 
I could not rise. And he has escaped ! Boy ! what 
did he say to you of me —of my affairs ? " 

" Not anything. I do not believe he knows you in 
the lca.st. He says he does not." 

TIk' crimson of passion had laded fiom Miss Clwinn's 
face, leaving it wan and wliite. " linw dare you say 
you believe it / " 

"Because I do believe it," replied Austin, "lb' 
declared that ho never saw you in his life; and I 
think he spoke the truth. 1 can judge wlun a man 
tells truth, and wIk-u he tells a lie. Mi'. Thornimett 



24 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

often says he wishes he could read faces— and people 
— as I can read them." 

Miss Gwinn gazed at him ; contempt and pity- 
blended in her countenance. " Have you yet to learn 
that a bad man can assume the semblance of jiood- 
ness ? " 

" Yes, I know that ; and assume it so as to take fn 
a saint," hastily spoke Austin. " You may be deceived 
in a bad man ; but I do not think you can be in a 
good one. Where a man possesses innate truth and 
honour, it shines out in his countenance, his voice, his 
manner ; anil there can be no mistake. When you 
are puzzled over a bad man, you .say to yourself, ' He 
may be telling the truth, lie may be genuine;' but 
with a good man you know it to be so : that Is, if you 
possess the gift of reading countenances. Miss Gwinn, 
I am sure there was truth in that stranger." 

" Listen, Austin Clay. That man, truthful as you 
deem him, is the very incarnation of deceit. I know 
as much of him as one human being can well know of 
another. It was he who wrought the terrible wrong 
upon my house; it was he who broke up my happy 
home. I'll find him now. Others said he must be 
dead ; but I .said, ' No, he lives yet.' And, you sec he 
does live. I'll find him." 

Without another word she turned away, and went 
striding back in the direction of Ketterford — the same 
road which the stranger's horse had taken. Austin 



WAS THE LADY MAD? 25 

stood and looked after her, pondering over tlie strange 
events of the hour. Tlien he proceeded to the Low- 
land Farm. 

A pleasant day amidst pleasant friends spent he ; 
rich Easter cheesecakes being the least of the sediic* 
tions he did not withstand ; and the Ketterford clocks 
were striking half-past ten as he approached Mrs. 
Thornimett's. The moonlight walk was delightful ; 
there was no foreboding of ill upon his spirit, and he 
turned in at the gate utterly unconscious of tlie news 
that was in store for him. 

Conscious of tlie lateness of the liour — for they were 
early people — he was passing across the lawn with a 
hasty step, when the door was drawn silently open, as 
if some one stood there watching, and he saw Sarah, 
one of the two old mai<l-ser\'ants, come forth to meet 
him. Both ha<l lived in the family for years; had 
scolded and ordered Austin about when a boy, to their 
heart's content, and for his own good. 

"Why, Sarah, is it you?" was his gay greeting. 
" Going to take a moonliijht ramble ? " 

" Where have you stayed ? " whispered the woman, 
in evident excitement. "To think you .shouM lie 
away this night of all others, Mr. Austin I Have you 
heard what has happened to the master ? " 

"No. What?" exclaimed Austin, his fc.irs taking 
alarm. 

" He fell down in a fit, over at the village where he 



26 A LIF?:'S SECRET. 

went ; and they brought him home, frightening us two 
and the missis almost into a fit ourselves. Oh, Master 
Austin ! " she concluded, bursting into teal's, " the 
doctors don't think he'll live till morning. Poor dear 
old master ! " 

Austin, half-paralyzed by the news, stood for a 
moment against the wall inside the hall. " Can I go 
and see him ?" he presently asked. 

" Oh, you may go," was the answer ; " the mistress 
has been asking for you, and nothing rouses him. 
It's a heavy blow; but it has its bright side. God 
never sends a blow but He sends mercy with it." 

" What is the mercy ? " Austin waited to ask, 
thinking she must allude to some sign or symptom of 
hope. Sarah put her shrivelled old arm on his 
solemnly, as she answered, 

" He was fit to be taken. He had lived for the 
next world while he was living in this. And those 
who do, Master Austin, never need shrink from sudden 
death." 



( 27 ) 



CHAPTER II. 

CHA.NGE3. 

To reflect upon the change death makes, even in the 
ordinary cvery-day affairs of life, must always Ining a 
certain awe to the thoufditful mind. On the Easter- 
Monday, spoken of in the last chapter, Richard 
Thornimett, his men, his contracts, and his business 
in progress, were all part of the life, the work, the 
bustle of the town of Ketterford. In a few weeks 
from that time, Richard Thornimett — who had not 
lived to see the dawn of the day after his attack — 
was lying in the clnnchyard ; and tlie business, the 
workshops, the artisans, all exce})ting the dwelling- 
house, which Jfrs. Thornimett retained for herst-lf, had 
passed into other hands. The name, Richard Thorni- 
mett, as one of the citizens of Ketterford, had ceased 
to be : all things were changed. 

Mrs. Thornimett's friends and acquaintances had 
assembled to tender counsel, after the fashion of the 
busyV)odies of the world. Some recommended hor to 
continue tlic business; .some, to give it up; .some, to 
take in a gentleman as partner; some, to pay a good 



28 A IJFE'S SECRET 

salary to an eflicieiit mana^'or. Mrs. Thornimett 
listened politely to all, without the leiist intention of 
acting upon any one's opinion but her own. Her 
mind had been made up from the first. Mr. Thorni- 
mett had died fairly well-off, and everything was left 
to her — half the money to be hers for life, and then to 
go to dilferent relatives ; the other half was bequeathed 
to her absolutely, and was at her own disposal. 
Rumours were ,rife in the town, that, when things 
came to be realized, .she would possess about twelve 
thousand pounds, besides other property. 

15iit before making known licr decision abroad, she 
spoke to Austin Clay. They were sitting together 
one evening when she entered upon the subject, 
breaking somewhat al)ruptly the silence that reigned. 

" Austin, I shall dispose of the business ; everything 
as it stands. And the goodwill." 

" Shall you ? " he exclaimed, taken by surprise, and 
his voice betraying a curious disappointment. 

Mrs. Thornimett nodded in answer. 

" I would have done my best to carry it on for you, 
Mrs. Thornimett. The foreman is a man of experience ; 
one we may trust." 

" T do not doubt you, Austin ; and I do not doubt 
him. You have your head on your shoulders the 
right way, and you would be faithful and true. So 
well do I think of your abilities, that, were you in a 
position to pay down only half the purchase-money, 



CHANGES. 29 

I would ^'ive you the refusal of the business, and I 
am certain success would attend you. But you aro 
not able ; so that is out of the question." 

" Quite out of the question," assented Austin. " If 
ever I have a business of my own, it must be by 
working for it. Have you quite resolved upon giving 
it up ? " 

" So far resolved, that the negotiations are already 
half concluded," replied Mrs. Thornimett. " What 
should I, a lone woman, do with an extensive busi- 
ness ? When poor widows are left badly off, they are 
obliged to work ; but I possess more money than I 
shall know how to spend. Why nliould I worry 
out my days trying to amass more ? It would be 
unseemly. Ilolt and Ransom wish to purchase it." 

Austin lifted his head with a quick movement. He 
did not like Rolt and Ransom, 

" The only difference we have in the matter, is this : 
that I wlsli them to take you on, Austin, and they 
think they shall not bo able to find room for you. 
Were you a common workman, it would be another 
thing, they sny." 

"Do not allow that to bi- a diMc'rencc any longer, 
Mrs. Thornimett," he crleil, somewhat eagerly. ' I 
should not care to be under Rolt and Ransom. If 
they offered mc a place to-morrow, and aide llitnc/ie 
as to pay, I do not tldnk I could bring myself to 
accept it." 



30 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Why ? " asked Mrs. Thornimett, in surprise. 

" Well, they are no favourites of mine. I know 
nothing against them, except that they are hard 
men — grinders ; but somehow I have always felt a 
prejudice against the firm. We all have our likes 
and dislikes, you are well aware. Young Rolt is 
prominent in the business, too, and I am sure there's 
no love lost between him and me ; we should bo at 
dafrfjers drawn. No, I should not serve under Rolt 
and Ransom. If they .succeed to your business, I 
think I shall go to London, and try my fortune 
there." 

Mrs. Thornimett pushed back hor widow's cap to 
which her head had never yet been able to grow 
reconciled — something like Austin with regard to 
Rolt and Ransom. " London would not be a good 
place for you, Austin. It is full of pitfalls for young 
men." 

" So are other places," said Austin, laughingly, " if 
young men choose to step into them. 1 shall make 
my way, Mi-s. Thornimett, never fear. I am thorough 
master of my business in all its branches, higher and 
lower, as you know, ami I am not afiaid of putting 
my shoulder to the wheel, if there's necessity for it. 
As to pitfalls — if I do stumble in the dark into any, 
I'll manage to scramble out again ; but I will try and 
take care not to step into them wilfully. Had you 
continued the business, of course I would have ro- 



CHANGES. 31 

mained with you ; otherwise, I should like to fjo to 
London." 

"You can be better trusted, both as to capacity 
and steadiness, than many could be at your age," 
deliberated Mrs. Thornimett. " But they are wrong 
notions that you young men pick up with regard to 
London. I believe there's not one of you but thinks 
its streets are sprinkled with diamonds." 

"J don't," said Austin. "And whilst God gives me 
hands and brains to work with, I would rather earn 
my diamonds, than pick them up in idleness." 

Mrs. Thornimett paused. She settled her spectacles 
more firmly on her eyes, turned them full on Austin, 
and spoke sharply. 

" Were you disappointed when you heard the poor 
master's will read ? " 

Austin, in return, turned his eyes upon her, and 
opened them to their utmost width in his surprise. 
" Disappointed ! No. Why should I be ? " 

" Did it never occur to you to think, or to expect, 
that he might leave you something ? " 

" Never," earnestly replied Austin. " The thouglit 
never so much as crossed my niiml. .Mr. Thornimett 
had near relatives of his own— and so have you. 
Who am I, that I should think to step in before 
them ? " 

"1 wi.-^h people wouM mind tlnir own business!" 
exclaimed the old la<iy, in vexed tones. " I was 



32 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

gravely assured, Austin, that young Clay felt 
grievously ill-used at not being mentioned in the 
will." 

" Did you believe it ? " he rejoined. 

" No, I did not." 

"It is utterly untrue, Mrs. Thornimett, whoever 
Raid it. I never expected Mr. Thornimett to leave 
me anything,' ; therefore, 1 could not have been dis- 
appointed at the will." 

" The poor master knew I should not forget you, 
Austin ; that is if you continue de.serving. Some time 
or other, when my old bones are laid beside him, you 
may be the better for a tride from me. Only a trifle, 
niind ; we must be just before we are generous." 

"Indeed, you are very kind," was Austin Clay's 
reply ; " but I should not wi.sh you to enrich me at 
the expense of others who have gi*eater claims." And 
he fully meant what he said. " I have not the least 
fear of making my own way up the world's lad<ler. 
Do you happen to know anything of the London firm, 
Hunter and Hunter ? " 

" Only by reputation," said Mrs. Thornimett. 

" 1 shall apply to them, if I go to London. They 
would interest themselves for me, perhaps." 

" You would be sure to do well, if you could get in 
there. But why should they help you more than any 
other firm wunld ?" 

" There's nothing like trying," replied Austin, too 



CHANGES. 33 

conscious of the evasive character of his reply. He 
was candour itself; but lie feared to sj)eak of the cir- 
cumstances under which he had met Mr, Henry 
Hunter, lest Miss Gwinn should tind out it was to 
him he had gone, and so track Mr. Henry Hunter 
home. Austin deemed that it was no business of his 
to help her to find Mr. Hunter, whether he was or 
was not the hete noire of whom she had spoken. He 
mi;i;ht have mentioned the encounter at the time, but 
fur the home calamity that so quickly followed it ; 
that had driven away all lesser topics. Neither had 
he mentioned it at the Lowland Farm. For all Miss 
Gwinn's violence, he felt pity for her, and could not 
expose tlie woman. 

"A first-rate firm, that of Hunter and Hunter," re- 
marked Mi's. Thornimett. " Your credentials will bo 
good also, Austin." 

'■ Yes , I hope so." 

It was nearly all that pa.ssed upon the subject. 
Holt and Ransom took possession of the business, and 
Austin Clay prepared to depart for London. Mrs. 
Thornimett felt sure he would get on well — always 
provided that he kept out of " pitfalls." She cluargcd 
him not to be above his business, but to work his way 
up\vard.s: as Austin meant to do. 

A day or two before qvltting Ketterford, it chanced 
that he and Mrs. Thornimett, who were out together, 
encountered Miss Gwinn. There wiis a speaking 

A LUe'i Secret d 



34 A LIFES SECRET. 

acquaintance between the two ladies, and Miss Gwinrv 
stopped to say a kind word or two of sympathy for 
the widow and her recent loss. She could be a lady 
on occasion, and a gentle one. As the conversation 
went on, Mrs. Thorniinett incidentally mentioned that 
Mr. Clay was going to leave and try his fortune in 
London. 

" Oh, indeed," said Miss Gwinn, tiuning to him, as 
he stood quietly by Mrs. Thornimett's side. " What 
does he think of doing there ? " 

"To get a situation, of course, lie means first of 
all to try at Hunter and Hunter's." 

The words had left Mrs. Thornimett's lips before 
Austin could interpose — which he would have given 
the woild to do. But there was no answering emotion 
on Miss Gwinn's face. 

"Hunter and Hunter?" she carelessly repeated. 
" Who are they ? " 

" ' Hunter Brothers,' they are sometimes called," 
observed Mrs. Thomimett. " It is an emioent building 
firm." 

" Oh," apathetically returned Miais Gwinn. "I wish 
you well," she added, to Austin. 

He thanked her as they parted. The subject, the 
name, evidently bore for her no interest whatever. 
Therefore Austin judged, that altliough she might 
have knowledge of Mr. Henry Hunter's person, she 
could know nothing of his name. 



( 35 ) 



CHAPTER III. 

AWAY TO LONDON. 

A HEAVY train, drawn by two engines, was dashing 
towards London. AVhitsuntide Lad come, and tlie 
public took advantage ot the holiday, and the trains 
were craniuiuil. Austin Clay took advantage of it 
also ; it was a saving to his purse, the fares having 
been lowered ; and he rather liked a cram. What ho 
did not like was the being stufled into a lirst-elass 
carriage, with its warm mats and cushions. The 
crowd was so great that people sat indiscriminately 
in any carriage that came first. The day was in- 
tensely hot, and he would have })rLferred one open 
on all sides. Tiiey were filled, however, before ho 
came up. He had left Ketterford, and was on his roatl 
to London to seek his fortune — as old stories used 
to say. 

Seated in the same compartment as himself wtm a 
lady with a little girl. The former appeared to be in 
very delicate health ; she remarked more than once, 
that she would not have travelled on so crowded a 



•M\ A LIFE'S SFXRET. 

day, lia<l slie ;,fiveii it proper tliou^^lit. Tlic little '^\i\ 
"svas cliiefly remarkable fur making herself trouble- 
some to Austin ; at least, her mamma perpetually 
rcproaehed her ■svith doing so. She was a lovely 
child, with delicately carved features, slightly aquiline, 
but inexpressibly sweet and charming. A bright 
colour illumined her cheeks, her eyes were large and 
dark and soft, and her brown curls were flowing lie 
judged lier to be perhaps eleven years old ; but .she 
was one of those natural, unsophisticated children, 
who api>ear much younger than they are. The race 
has very nearly gone out of the world now : I hope it 
will come back again some day. 

" Florence, how can you be so tiresome ? Pushing 
yourself before this gentleman against that dangerous 
door I it may ily open at any nioment. I am sure ho 
must be tired of holding you." 

Florence turned her bright eyes — sensible, honest 
eyes — and her pretty hot cheeks upon Austin. 

" Are you tired of me ? " 

Austin smiled. " It would take rather more than 
this to tire me," he said. " Pray allow her to look 
out," he added, to the lady, opposite to whom he .sat; 
" I will take every care of her." 

" Have you any little girls of your own ? " ques- 
tioned the young damsel. 

Austin laughed outright. " No." 

" Nor any sisters ? " 



AWAY TO LONDON. 37 

" Nor any sisters. I have scarcely any relatives in 
the workl. 1 am not so fortunate as you are." 

"I have a great many relatives, but no brotliers or 
sisters. 1 had a little sister once, and she died when 
she was three years old. Was it not three, mamma ? " 

" And how old are you ? " inquired Austin. 

" Oh, pray do not ask," interposed the lady. " She 
is so thoroughly childish, I am ashamed that any one 
should know her age. And 3'et she is not wanting in 
sense." 

" I was twelve last birthday," cried the young lady, 
in defiance of all conventionalism. "My cousin Mary 
is only eleven, but she i3 a gi'eat deal bigger than 
I am." 

" Yes," observed the lady, in tones of positive vexa- 
tion. " Mary is quite a woman already in ideas and 
manners : you are a child, and a very backward one." 

" Let her be a child while she may," impulsively 
cried Austin ; "chiMliood dues nut last t(ju long, and 
it never returns. Little girls are women nuwaduys: 
I think it is perfectly delightful to meet with one 
like this." 

Before they readied London, other pa.ss3ngcrs had 
disappeared from the carriage, and they wiio alo'ie. 
As they neared the terminus, the young lady was 
peremptorily ordered to " keep Ikt head in," or perhaps 
she might lose it. 

" Oh dear ! if I unist, I must," returned the child. 



.■^8 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

"But I wanted to look out for papa ; he is sure to bo 
waiting for us." 

The train glided into its destination. And the 
blight quick eyes were roving amongst the crowd 
standing on the platform. They rested upon a 
gentleman. 

" There's Uncle Henry ! But I don't see papa. 
Where's papa ? " she called out, as the gentleman saw 
them and approached. 

" Papa hasn't come ; he has sent me instead, Miss 
Florence." And to Austin Clay's inexpressible sur- 
prise, he recognized Mr. Henry Hunter. 

"There is nothiacr the matter ? James is not ill ?" 
exclaimed the lady, bending forward. 

" No, no ; nothing of that sort. Being a leisure 
day with us, we thought we would quietly go over 
some estimates together. James had not finished the 
calculations, and did not care to bo di.sturbed in them. 
Your carriage is here." 

^Ir. Henry Hunter was assisting her" to alight as he 
spoke, having already lifted down Florence. A maid 
with a couple of carpet-bags appeared presently, 
amidst the bustle, and Austin saw them approach a 
private caiTiage. He had not put himself forward. 
He did not intend to do so tiion, deeming it not the 
most fitting moment to challenge the notice of Mr. 
Henry Hunter; but that gentleman's eye happened to 
fall upon him. 



AWAY TO LONDON. 3y 

Not at first in recognition. Mr. Hunter felt i^iire it 
was a face he had seen recently ; one he ought to 
know; but his memory was puzzled. Florence fol- 
lowed his gaze. 

"That gentleman came up in the same carriage 
with us, Uncle Henry. He got in at a place they 
called Ketterford. I like him so much." 

Austin came forward as he saw the intent look ; 
and recollection flashed over the mind of Mr. Henry 
Hunter. He took both the young man's hands in his 
and grasped them. 

"You like him, do you, Miss Florence?" cried he, 
in half-joking, half-fervent tones. " I can tell you 
what, young lady ; but for this gentleman, you would 
no longer have possessed an Uncle Henry to plague ; 
he would have been dead and forgotten." 

A word or two of explanation from Austin, touch- 
ing what ]>njught him to London, and his intention 
to ask advice of Mr, Henry HuntLT. That gentleman 
replied that ho would give it willingly, and at once, 
for lie had leisure that day, and he could not answer 
for having it on another. He gave Austin the address 
of hi.s office. 

"When shall I come, sir ?" a.^ked Austin. 

" Now, if you can, A cab will take you. I shall 
not be there later in tlic <lay." 

So Austin, leaving his portmanteau, all (he luggage 
he had at present brought with him, in charge at tho 



40 A LIFE'S R1-:CRET. 

station, proceeded in a cab to tlie address named, Mr. 
Henry Hunter having driven off in the carriage. 

The offices, yards, buildings, sheds, and other places 
belonging to the business of Hunter and Hunter, were 
situated in what may be considered a desirable part 
of the metropolis. They encroached neither upon the 
excessive bustle of the City, nor upon the aristocratic 
exclusiveness of the gay West End, but occupied a 
situation half-way between the two. Sufficiently 
open was the district in their immediate neighbour- 
hood, healthy, handsome, and near some fine squares ; 
but a very, very little way removed, you came upon 
swarming courts, close dwellings, squalor and misery, 
and all the bad features of what we are pleased to call 
Arab life. There are many similar districts in London, 
where wealth and ease contrast with starvation and 
improvidence, «^/ but within view of each other, the 
one as gratifying to the eye as the other is painful. 

The yard ami premises were of great extent. 
Austin had thought Mr. Thornimett's pretty fair fur 
size ; but he could lau^h at them, now that he saw 
the Messrs. Hunters'. They were enclosed by a wall, 
and by light iron gates. Within the gates on the 
left-hand side were the offices, where the indoor 
business was transacted. A wealthy, important, and 
liighly considered firm was that of the Messrs. Hunter. 
Their father had made the business what it was, and 
had bequeathed it to them jointly at his death. 



AWAY TO LONDON. 41 

James, whoso wife and only child you have seen 
arriving Ly the train, after a week's visit to the 
country, was the elder brother, and was usually styled 
Mr. Hunter; the younger was known as Mr. Henry 
Hunter, and he had a large family. Each occupied a 
handsome house in a neighbouring square. 

Mr. Henry Hunter came up almost as Austin did, 
and they entered the offices together. In a private 
room, warmly carpeted, stood two gentlemen. The 
one, had he not been so stout, would have borne a 
great likeness to Mr. Henry Hunter. It wa.s ^Mr. 
Hunter. In early life the likeness between the 
brothers had been remarkable; the same dark hair 
and eyes ; the well-formed aquiline features, the 
same active, tall, light figure ; but, of late years, James 
had grown stout, and tlie resemblance was in part 
lost. The other gentleman was Dr. Bevary, a spare 
man of middle height, the brother of Mrs. James 
Hunter. Mr. Henry Hunter introduced Austin Clay, 
speaking of the service rendered him, and broadly 
saying as he had done to Florence, that but for him 
he should not now liave been living. 

"There you go, Henry," cried Dr. Ikvar}-. "That's 
one of your exaggerations : you were always given to 
the marvellous, you know. Not living '" 

Mr. Henry Hunter turned to Austin. "Tell the 
truth, Mr. Clay. Should I, or not?" And Austin 
smiled, and said he believed noL 



42 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" I cannot understand it," exclaimed Dr. Bevary, 
after some explanation had been given by Mr. Henry 
Hunter. " It is incredible to suppose that a strange 
woman would attack you in such a manner, unless 
she were mad." 

" Mad, or not mad, she did it," returned Mr. Henry 
Hunter. "I was riding Salem — you know I took 
him with me, in that week's excursion I made at 
Easter — and the woman set upon mc like a tigress, 
clutching at Salem, who won't stand such jokes. In 
his fury, ho broke loose from her, dashing lie neither 
knew nor cared whither, and this fine fellow saved 
us on the very brink of the yawning pit— risking the 
chance of being killed himself. Had the horse not 
st(jppcd, I don't see how he could have helped being 
knocked over with us." 

Mr. Hunter turned a warm, grateful look on Austin. 
"How was it you never spoke of this, Henry?" ho 
inquired of his brother. 

"There's another curious jdiase of the affair," 
laughed Mr. Henry Hunter. " I have had a dislike 
to speaking of it, even to thinking of it. I cannot 
tell you why ; certainly not on account of the escaped 
danger. And it was over : so, what signified talking 
of it?" 

" Why did .she attack you ? " pursued Dr. Bevary. 

" She evidently, if there was reason in her at all, 
mistook me for some one else. All sorts of diabolical 



AWAY TO LONDON. 43 

things she was beginning to accuse me of; that of 
having evaded her for a great number of years, 
amongst the rest. I stopped lier; telling her I had 
no ^vish to be the depositary of other people's secrets." 

" She solemnly protested, after you rode away, sir, 
that you vjere the man who had done her family some 
•wrong," interposed Austin. " I told her I felt certain 
she was mistaken; and so drew down her anger upon 
me. 

" Of what natuiG was the wrong ? " a.sked Dr. 
Bevary, 

" I cannot tell," said Austin. " I seemed to gather 
from her words that the wrong was upon her family, 
or upon some portion of her family, rather than upon 
herself. I remember she made use of the expression, 
that it had broken up her happy home." 

" And you did not know her ? " exclaimed the 
doctor, looking at Mr. Henry Hunter. 

" Know her ? " ho returned, " I never set eyes on 
her in all my life until that day. I never was in tlio 
place before, or in its neighbourhood. If I ever did 
work her wrong, or ill, I must have done it in my 
sleep ; and with mil«s of distance between us. Who 
is she? AVliat is her naino ? You told it me. .Mr. 
Clay, but I have forgotten it." 

"Hornamc is Gwinn," replied Austin. " Tho brother 
is a lawyer, and has scraped a business together. One 
morning, many years ago, a lady arrived at his house, 



44 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

without warning, and took up licr abode wltli hini. 
She turned out to bo his sister, and the people at 
Kettcrtbrd think she is mad. It is said they come 
from Wales. The little boys call after her, ' the mad 
Welsh woman.' Sometimes Mad Gwinn " 

" What did you say was the name ? " interrupted 
Dr. Bevary, with startling emphasi.s. " Gwinn ? — and 
from Wales ? " 

" Yes." 

Dr. Bevary paused, as if in deep thouglit. " What 
is her Christian name ? " he [iresently inquired. 

" It is a somewhat uncommon one," replied Austin. 
" Agatha." 

The doctor nodded his head, as if anticipating the 
answer. "A tall, spare, angular woman, of great 
strength," he remarked. 

" Why, what do 3'ou know of her ? " exclaimed Mr. 
Henry Hunter to the doctor, in surprised tones. 

" Not a great deal. We medical men come across 
all sorts of persons occasionally," was the physician's 
reply. And it was given in a concise, laconic manner, 
as if he did not care to be further questioned. Mr. 
Henry Hunter pursued the subject. 

" If you know her, Bevary, perhaps you can tt-ll us 
whether she is mad or sane." 

"She is sane, I believe: I have no reason to think 
her otherwise. But she is one who can allow anger 
to master her at moments : 1 have seen it do so. Do 



AWAY TO LONDON. 4ft 

you say hci brother is a lawyer ? '' lie continued, to 
Austin Clay. 

" Yes. Ami not one of the lirst water, as to reputa- 
tion, a grcis[iing, pettifogging practitioner, who will 
take up any dirty case that may be brought to him. 
And in tliat, I fancy, he is a contrast to his sister, for, 
■with all her strange waj's, I should not judge her to 
be dishonourable. It is said he speculates, and that 
he is not over-particular whose money he gets to do 
it with." 

" I wonder that she never tol<l me about this 
brother," dreamily exclaimed the doctor, almost as if 
unaware that he spoke aloud. 

"Where did you meet with her? When did you 
know her ? " interposed Mr. Henry Hunter. 

" Are you sure tliat you know nothing about her ? " 
was the doctor's rejoinder, turning a searching glance 
upon Mr. Henry Hunter. 

" Come, Bevary, what have you got in your head ? 
I do not know her. I never met her until .she saw 
and accosted mo. Are you acquainted with her 
hi.stoiy V 

" With a dark pago in it." 

" What is the page ? " 

Dr. Bevary .shook his head. " In the course of a 
<loctor'.s practice he becomes cognizai^t of many odd.s 
an<l ends of romance, light and dark ; things that ho 
must hold sacred, and may not give utterance to." 



AG A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Mr. Henry Hunter looked vexed. " Perhaps you 
can understand the reason of her attacking me ? " 

" I could understand it, but for your assertion of 
being a stranger to her. If it is so, I can only believe 
that she mistook you for another." 

" Jf it is so," repeated Mr. Henry Hunter. " I am 
not in the habit of asserting an untruth, Bevary." 

"Nor, on the other hand, is Miss Gwinn one to be 
deceived. She is keen as a razor." 

" Bevary, what are you driving at ? " 

"At nothing. Don't be alarmed, Henry, 1 have 
no reason to suppose that you know the woman, or 
she you. I only thought — and think — she is one 
whom it is almost impossible to deceive. It must, 
however, have been a mistake." 

" It was a mistake— so far as her suspicion that she 
knew me went," decisively returned Mr. Henry 
Hunter. 

"Ay," acquiesced Dr. Bevary. "But here am I 
gossiping my morning away, when a host of patients 
are waiting for me. We poor doctors never get a 
holiday, as you more favoured mortals do." 

He laughed as he went out, nodding a friendly 
farewell to Austin. Mr. Henry Hunter stepped out 
after him. Then Mr. Hunter, who had not taken 
part in the discussion, but had stood looking from the 
window while tliey carried it on, wheeled round to 
Austin, and spoke in low, earnest tones. 



AWAY TO LONDON. 47 

" What is this tale — this mystery — that my brother 
and the doctor seem to be picking up ? " 

"Sir, I know no more about it than you liavc 
lieanl me say. I witnessed her attack on Mr. Ilunry 
Hunter." 

" I should like to know further about it : about her- 
self. AVill you Hush ! here comes my brother 

back again. Hush ! " 

His voice died away in the faintest whisper, for Mr. 
H£nry Hunter was already within the room. Was 
Mr. Hunter suspecting that his brother had more 
cognizance of the afiair than lie seemed willing: to 
avow ? The thought that it must be so crossed 
Austin Clay ; or why that warning " hush " twice 
repeated ? 

It happened that business was remarkably brisk 
that sea.son at Hunter and Hunter's. They could 
scarcely procure hands enough, or get the work done. 
And when Austin explained the cause which liad 
brought him to town, and frankly asked the question 
OS Uj whether they could recommend him to employ- 
ment, they were glad to offer it themselves. He pro- 
duced his credentials, and waited. ^Ir. Henry Hunter 
turned to him witli a smile. 

"I suppose you are not above your work, Mr. 
Clay ? " 

"I am not above anything in tin- world that in 
ijgl»t, sir. I have como to seek work." 



4S A MFF/S SKCREt. 

Jle was ciiga^'fd at once. His duties at present 
were to lie partly in tlic counting-house, partly in 
overlooking the men; an<l the salary offered was 
twenty-five pounds a-(iuartcr. 

" I can rise above that in time, 1 suppose," remarked 
Austin, " if I give satisfaction ? " 

Mr. Hunter smiled. " A}-, you can rise above tliat, 
if you choose. But when j'ou get on, you will be 
doing, I expect, as some of the rest do." 

" What is that, sir ? " 

" Leaving us, to set up for yourself. Numbers have 
done so as soon as they have become valuable. Of 
course I do not speak of the men, but of those who 
have been with us in a higher capacity. A few of 
the men, though, have done the same , and some have 
risen into influence." 

" How can they dc that without capital ? " inquired 
Austin. "It mu.st take money, and a good deal of it, 
to set up for themselves." 

"Not so much as you may think. They begin in a 
small way — take piece-work, and work eaily and 
late, often fourteen and fifteen hours a-day, husband 
ing their earnings, and getting a capital together by 
slow but sure degrees. Many of our most important 
firms have so liscn, and owe their present positions to 
sheer hard work, patience, and enei-gy." 

" It was the way in which Mr. Thomimett first 
rose," observed Austin. " Ho was once a journeyman 



AWAY TO LONDON. 49 

at fourteen sliillings a-week. He got together money 
by working over-hours." 

" Ay, there's nothing like it for the industrious 
man," said Mr. Hunter. 

Prehminaries were settled, advice given to him 
where lie might find lodgings, and Austin departed, 
having accepted an invitation to dine at six at Mr. 
Henry Hunter's. 

And all through having performed an unpremedi- 
tated hut almost necessary act uf bravery. 



A Life's S^c^c(. 



50 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER IV. 

daffodil's delight. 

TuRXiXG to tlie right after quitting the business 
premises of tlie Messrs. Hunter, j'ou came to an oi)cn, 
handsome part of the town, where the square in 
Avliich those gentlemen dwelt was situated, with other 
squares, crescents, and houses. But, if you turned to 
the left, instead of to the right, you very speedily 
found yourself in the centre of a dense locality, by no 
means so agreeable to the eye or to the senses. 

And yet some jiarts c)f this were not very much 
to be complained of, unless you instituted a compari- 
son between thom and those more open spaces ; but in 
this world all things are estimate<l by comparison. 

Take ])aflbdirs Delight, for example. 

"Daflodil's Delight! what's that ?" cries the puzzled 
reader, uncertain whether it may be a fine picture or 
something good to cat. 

Dalfodil's Delight was nothing more than a tolerably 
long street, or lane, or dcublc row of houses — wide 
enough for a street, dirty enough for a lane, the build- 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 51 

ings irregular, not always adjoining, small gardens 
before some of them, and a few trees scattered about 
here and there. When the locality was chiefly fields, 
and the buildings were few and far between, a person 
of the name of Daffodil ran up a few tenements. He 
found that they let well, and ran up more and more, 
until there was a long line of them, and he was grow- 
ing rich. He called the place Daffodil's Delight — 
which we may suppose expressed his own complacency 
at his success — and Daffodil's Delight it had continued 
down to the present day. The houses were of various 
sizes, and of fanciful appearance ; some large, some 
small ; some rising up like narrow towers, some but 
one storey high ; some were all windows, some seemed 
to have no windows at all ; some 3'ou could only gain 
by ascending steps; to others you went down as into 
a cellar; some lay back, with gardens before their 
iloors, whilst others projected jiretty nearly on to the 
street gutter. Nothing in the way of houses could be 
more irregular, and what Mr. Dalfodil's motive could 
have been for building in such a manner cannot b<^ 
conjectincd — unless he formed an idea that he wouM 
make a venture to suit various tastes and diverse 
pockets. 

Almost at the commencement of this locality, in iU 
best part, before the road became narrow, there .stood 
a detached white house ; one of only six rooms, but 
superior in appearance and well-kei)t ; indeed, it 



62 A LIFE'S SFX'RET. 

looked more like a gentleman's cottage residence than 
a working man's abode. Venetian blinds were outside 
the windows, and green wire stands holding geraniums 
and other plants on the stone copings obviated the 
necessity for blinds within. In this house lived Peter 
Quale. He had begun life by carrying hods of mortar 
for masons, and covering up bricks with straw — a 
half-starved urchin, his feet as bare as his head, and 
his body in scarcely better condition. But he was 
steady, industrious, and persevering — one of those men 
that work on for a decent position, and acquire it. 
From two shillings a-weck to four, from four to six, 
from six to twelve — such had been Peter Quale's 
beginnings. At twelve shillings he remained for some 
time stationary, and then his advance was rapid. Now, 
he was one of the higher artisans of tlie Messrs. 
Hunters' yard ; was, in fact, in a post of trust, and his 
■wages had increased in proportion. Daffodil's Delight 
said that Quale's earnings could not be less than a 
hundred and fifty pounds per annum. A steady, 
sensible, honest, but somewhat obstinate man, well- 
read, and intelligent ; for Peter, whilst he advanced 
his circumstances, had not neglected his mind. He 
had cultivated that far more than he had his speech 
or his manners ; a homely tone and grammar, better 
known to Daftbdil's Delight than to polite cars, Peter 
still favoured. 

In the afternoon of Whit- Monday, the day already 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 5S 

spoken of, Peter sat in the parlour of liis liouse, a ]>ipe 
in Ills mouth, and a book in his liand. He looked 
about half-way between forty and fifty, had a round 
bald head, surmounted just now by a paper cap, a fair 
complexion, grey whiskers, and a well-marked fore- 
head, especially where lie the perceptive faculties. 
His eyes were deeply sunk in his head, and he was 
by nature a silent man. In the kitchen behind, 
" wa.shing u}) " after dinner, was his helpmate, Mrs. 
Quale. Although so well to do, and generally having 
a lodger, she kept no servant — " wouldn't be bothered 
with 'em," she said — but did her own work ; a person 
coming in once a week to do the heavier cleaning. 

A rattling commotion in the street caused Peter 
Quale to look up from his book. A large pleasure- 
van was rumbling down it, drawing up at the ne.xt 
door. 

" Nancy !" called out he to his wife. 

" Well ? " came forth the answer, in a bri.-^k, bustling 
voice, from the depths of the kitchen. 

"The Shucks, and that lot, be actually going oT 
now." 

The news appeared to oxcite the curiosity of AIis. 
Quale, and she hastily came in ; a dark -eyed, rosy- 
cheeked little Woman, \\ ith black curls. Slie wore a 
neat white cap, a fresh-looking plum-coloured strijx'd 
gown of some thin woollen material, and a black 
uprun; a coarse apron being pinned round her. Mi-s. 



5i A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Quale was an inveterate busybody, knew every 
incident that took place in Daffodil's Delight, and 
possessed a free-and-easy tongue; but she was a 
kindly woman withal, and very popular. She put 
her head out of the window above the geraniums, to 
reconnoitre. 

" Oh, they be going, sure enough ! Well, they are 
fools ! That's just like Slippery Sam ! By to-morrow 
they won't have a threepenny-piece to bless them- 
selves with. But, if they must have went, they might 
have started earlier in the day. There's the Whites! 
And — why ! — there's the Dunns ! The van won't 
hold 'em all. As for the Dunns, they'll have to pinch 
for a month after it. She has got on a dandy new 
bonnet with pink ribbons. Aren't some folks idiots, 
Peter ? " 

Peter rejoined, with a sort of a gi'unt, that it wasn't 
no business of his, and aj^plied himself again to his 
pipe and book. Mrs. Quale made everybody's business 
hers, especially their failings and shortcomings; and 
she unpinned the coarse apron, tlirew it aside, and 
flew off to the next house. 

It was inhabited by two families, the Shucks and 
the Baxcndales. Samuel Shuck, usually called Slippery 
Sam, was an idle, oily-tongued man, always slipping 
from work — hence the nickname — and spending at 
the Bricklayors'-Arms what ought to have Ixjcn 
spent upon his wife and childieu. John Baxendalc 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 55 

was a quiet, reserved man, Hvin^^ respectably with his 
wife and daughter, but saving nothing. It wa.s 
singular how improvident most of them were. Daffo- 
dil's Delight was chieHy inhabited by the workmen 
of the Messrs. Hunter; they seemed to love to con- 
gregate there as in a nest. Some of the houses were 
crowded with them, a family on a iloor — even in one 
room ; others rented a house to themselves, and liv^ed 
comfortably. 

Assembled inside Sam Shuck's front-room, which 
was a kitchen and not a parlour, and to which the 
house-door opened, were as many people as it could 
well hold, all in holiday attire. Abel White, his wife 
and family; Jim Dunn, and his; Patrick Ryan and 
the childer (Pat's wife was dead) : and John Baxen- 
dale and his daughter, besides others; the whole host 
of little Shucks, and half-a-dozen outside strafr<ders. 

' DO 

Mrs. Quale might well wonder how tliey could all 
pack themselves into the pleasure-van. She darted 
into their midst. 

" You never mean to say you be a-going ulf, like 
simpleton.s, at this time o' day ? " cjuoth .she. 

"Yes, we be," an.swereil Sum Sliuck, a hiiiky, 
serpent sort of man in fiame, with a prominent bhiek 
eye, a turned-up nose, and, as lja.s been said, an oily 
tongue. " V»'hat have you got to say again it, Mrs. 
Quale ? Come ! " 

"Say!" .-iaid that lady, undjJunto«IIy, but in tones 



5G A LTFK'S RIX'RET. 

of iTason ratlicr tlian of rebuke, " I .say you may just 
as well fling your money in the gutter as go off to 
Epping at three o'clock in tlie afternoon. Why <rnlirt 
you start in tlie morning ? If I hired a ])lcasure-van, 
IM liave my money's worth out of it." 

"It's just thi.s," said Sam. "It was ordered to be 
here as St. Paul's great bell was striking break o' day, 
but the wheels wasn't grea.sed ; and they have been 
all this time a-greasing 'em with the best fre.sh butter 
at eighteen-pence a pound, had up from Devonshire 
on purpose." 

" You hold your tongue, Sam," reprimanded Mrs, 

Quale. " You have been a-greasing your throat pretty 

strong, I see, with an extra pot or two ; you'll be in 

. for it as usual before the day's out. How is it you 

are going now ?" she added, turning to the women. 

"It's ju.st the worst-managed thing as I ever had to 
do with," volubly spoke up Jim Dunn's wife, Hannah. 
" And it's all the fault o' the men : as everything as 
goes wrong always is. There was a quarrel yesterday 
over it, and nothing was settled, and this morning 
when we met they began a-ja\ving again. Some 
would go, and some wouldn't ; some 'ud have a van 
to the Forest, and some 'ud take a omnibus ride to the 
Zoological Gardens, and see the beasts, and fini.sh up 
at the play ; some 'ud sit at home, and smoke and 
drink, and wouldn't go nowhere ; and most of the 
men got ofl" to the Bricklayers'-Arms and stuck 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 57 

tliere ; and afore the difference was settled in iavour 
of tlie van and tlie Forest, twelve o'clock struck, and 
then there was dinner to be had, and us to put our- 
selves to rights and the van to be seen after. And 
there it is, now three o'clock's gone." 

"It'll be just a ride out, and a ride in," cried Mr.s. 
Quale; "you Avon't have much time to stop. ^lonoy 
must be plentiful witli you, a-fouling it away like 
that. I thought some of you had better sense." 

" We spoke against it, father and I," said quiet 
Mary Baxcndale, in Mrs. Quale's ear ; " but as we had 
given our word to join in it and share in the expense, 
we didn't like to go from it again. Mother doesn't 
feel strong to-day, so she's stopping at home." 

"It does seem stupid to .start at this late hour," 
.spoke up a comely woman, of mild .si)cech, Kobert 
Darby's wife. " Better to have put it off till to-morrow, 
and taken anuther day's holiday, as I told my master. 
But when it was decided to go, we didn't say nay, for 
I couldn't bear to di.sapj)oint the chiMrew." 

The children were already being lifted into the van. 
Sundry baskets and bundles, containing j)rovisions for 
tea, and stone bottles of jiorter for the men, were being 
lil'trd in also. Then the general conij)any got in ; 
Daffudil'.s Delight, those not bound on the expedition, 
assembling to witness tlie ceremon}*, and Beter casting 
an eye at it from his parlour. After mucli packing 
and stowing, laughing and jesting, the gcntleraeu 



f>3 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

declaring the la-lies must sit upon their laps three 
deep, the van and its four horses moved off, and went 
lumbering down Daffodil's Delight. 

Mrs. Quale, after watching the last of it, was turning 
into her own gate, when she heard a ta])ping at the 
window of the tenement on the other side of her house. 
Upon looking round, it was thrown open, and a portly 
matron, dressed almost well enough for a lady, put out 
her head. She was the wife of George Stevens, a very 
well-to-do workman, and a most respectable man. 

" Are they going off to the Forest at this hour, that 
lot ? " 

" Ay," returned Mns. Quale ; " Avas ever such non- 
.sense known ? I'd have made a day of it, if I had 
went. They'll get home at miiJnight, I expect, fit to 
stand on their heads. Some of the men have had 
a'most as mucli as is good for them now." 

" I say," continued Mrs. Stevens, " George says, will 
you and your master come in for an hour or two this 
evening, and take a bit of supper with us ? We shall 
have a nice dish o' steak and onion.s, or some relishinjx 
thing of that sort, and the Checks arc coming." 

" Thank ye," said Mrs. Quale. " I'll ask Peter. But 
don't go and get anything hot." 

" I must," was the answer. " We had a shoulder of 
lamb yesterday, and we finished it up to-day for 
dinner, with a salad ; .so there's nothing cold in the 
house, and I'm forced to cook a bit of something. I 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 59 

say, don't make it late ; come at six, George — he's oft' 
somewhere, but he'll be in." 

Mrs. Quale nodded acquiescence, and went indoors. 
Her husband was reading and smoking still. 

" I'd have put it off till ten at night, and went 
then ! " cried she, ironically, in allusion to the departed 
pleasure-party. " A-bickering and contending they 
have been over it, Hannah Dunn says ; couldn't come 
to an agreement what they'd do, or what they wouldn't 
do ! Did you ever see such a load ! Them poor horses 
'11 have enough of it, if the others don't. I say, the 
Stevenses want us to go in there to supper to-night. 
Beefsteaks and onions." 

Peter's head was bent attentively over a map in his 
book, and it continued so bent for a minute or two. 
Then he raised it. *' Whu's to be there ? " 

"The Cheeks," she said. " I'll make haste and put 
the kettle on, and we'll have our tea as soon as it 
boils. She says, don't go in later than six." 

Pinning on the coarse apron, Mrs. Quale pa.ssed into 
the kitclien to her work. From the above .sli<rht 
sketch, it may 1)C gathered that Dattbdil's Delight 
was, take it for all in all, in tolerably comfortable 
circumstances. J>ut for tlic w^isttful mode of li\ing 
in general ; the improvidence both of husbands and 
wives ; the spending where they need not have .spent, 
and in things they woidd have been better without — 
it would have been in venj comfortable circumstances : 



on A LIFE'S SECRET. 

for, as is well known, no class of operatives earn 
better wages than those connected with the buiUling 
trade. 

"Is this Peter Quale's ? " 

The question proceeded from a stranger, who had 
entered the liouse-passage, and tlience the parlour, 
after knocking at its door, Peter raised his eyes, and 
beheld a tall, young, very gentlemanlike man, in grey 
travelling clothes and a crape band on his black hat. 
Of courteous manner also, for he lifted Ins hat as he 
spoke, though Peter was only a workman and had a 
paper cap on his head. 

" I am Peter Quale," said Peter, without moving. 

Perhaps you may have already guessed that it was 
Austin Clay. He stepped forward with a frank smile. 
" I am sent here," he said, " by the Messi's. Hunter. 
They desired me to inquire for Peter Quale." 

Peter was not wont to put himself out of the way 
for strangers : had a Duke Royal vouchsafed him a 
visit, I question if Peter would have been more than 
barely civil ; Itut he knew his place with respect to 
l)is employers, and what was due to bliem — none 
Ixjtter; and he rose at their name, and took off his 
pa:)er cap, and laid his y)ipe inside tlic fender, and 
sp(;ke a word of apology to tlie gentleman before 
him. 

" Pray do not mention it ; do not disturb yourself," 
said Austin, kindly. " My name is Clay. I have just 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGUT. CI 

entered into an engagement with the Messrs. Hunter, 
and am now in search of lodgings as near their yard 
as I can find them. Mr. Henry Hunter said ho 
thouglit you liad rooms wliich might suit me : hence 
my intrusion." 

" Well, sir, I don't know," returned Peter, rather 
dubiously. He was one of those who are apt to grow 
bewildered with any sudden proposition ; requiring 
time to take it in, before he could digest it. 

" You are from the country, sir, maybe ? " 

" I am from the countiy. I arrived in London only 
an hour ago, and my portmanteau is .still at the 
station. I wi.sh to settle where I shall lodge, before I 
go for it. Have you rooms to let ? " 

" Nancy, come here I " cried Peter, to his wife. " The 
rooms are in readiness to be shown, aren't they ? " 

Mrs. Quale required no second call. Hearing a 
strange voice, and gifted in a remarkable degree with 
what we are taught to look u[»()n as her sex's failing 
— curiosity — she had already again discarded the 
apron, and made her appearance in time to receive the 
question. 

"Ready and waiting," answered she. "And two 
better rooms for their size you won't liiid, sir, search 
London tlirough," slie .said volubly, turning to Austin. 
" They are on tlie first floor — a nice sitting-room, and 
a bedroom behind it. The furniture i.s good, ch-un, 
and handsome; for, when we were buying of it, wu 



C2 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

didn't spare a few pounds, knowing such would keep 
good to the end. Would you please step up, sir, and 
take a look at tliem ? " 

Austin acquiesced, motioning to her to lead the 
way. She dropped a curtsy as she passed him, as if 
in apology for taking it. He followed, and Peter 
brought up the rear, a dim notion penetrating Peter's 
hrain that the attention was due from him to one sent 
by the Messrs. Hunter. 

Two good rooms, as .she had said ; small, but well 
fitted up. " You'd be sure to bo comfortable, sir," 
cried Mrs. Quale to Austin. " If I can't make lodgers 
comfortable, I don't know who can. Our last gentle- 
man came to us three years ago, and left but a 
month since. He was a barrister's clerk, but he 
didn't get well paid, and he lodged in this part for 
cheapness." 

"The rooms would suit me, so far as I can judge," 
said Austin, looking round; "suit me very well 
indeed, if we can agree about terms. My pocket is a 
shallow one at present," he laughed. 

" I wcnild mako them ca.sy enough for any gentle- 
man sent by the masters," struck in Peter. " Did you 
.say your name was Clay, sir ? " 

" Clay," assented Austin. 

Mrs, Quale wheeled round at this, and took a free, 
lull view of the gentleman from head to foot. " Clay ? 
( 'lay ? " she repeated to herself. " And there in a 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 03 

likeness, if ever I saw one 1 Sir," she hastily inquired, 
"do you come from the neighbourhood of Kcttcr- 
ford ? " 

" I come from Ketterford itself," replied he. 

"Ah, but you were not born in the town. I think 
you must be Austin Clay, sir ; the orphan son of Mr. 
Clay and his wife — Miss Austin that used to be. 
They lived at the Nash Farm. Sir, I have had you 
upon my lap scores of times when 3'ou were a little 
one." 

" Why — who are you ? " exclaimed Austin. 

"You can't have forgot old Mi*. Austin, the great- 
uncle, sir ? though you were only seven years old when 
he died. I was Ann Best, cook to the old gentleman, and 
I heard all the ins-and-outs of the marriage of your 
father and mother. The match pleased neither family, 
and so they just took the Nash Farm for themselves, 
to bo independent anil get along without being be- 
lutlden for help to anyl)ody. Many a fruit-puff have 
I made ibr you. Master Austin; many a currant-cake. 
How things come round in this world ! Do take our 
rooms, sir — it will srem like serving my old master 
over again," 

" I will take them willingly, and be glad to fall 
into such good hands. You will not recjuire references 
now?" 

Mrs. Quale laughed. l\ter grunted resentfully. 
References from any one sent by the Mes.srs. Hunter! 



G4 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" I would say eight shillings a-woek, sir," said Peter, 
looking at his wife. "Pay as you like; monthly, or 
quarterly, or any way." 

" That's loss than I expected," said Austin, in his 
candour. " Mr. Henry Hunter thought they would 
be about ten shillinijfs." 

Peter was candid also. " There's the neighbourhood 
to be took into consideration, sir, which is nut a good 
one, and we can only let according to it. In some 
parts — and not far off, neither — ^you'd pay eighteen or 
twenty shillings for such rooms as these ; in Daftbdil's 
Delight it is different, though this is the best quarter 
of it. The last gentleman paid us nine. If eight will 
suit you, sir, it will suit us." 

So the bargain was struck ; and Austin Clay went 
back to the station for his luggage. Mrs. Quale, busy 
as a bee, ran in to tell her next-door neighbour that 
she coulil not make one of the supper-party that 
night, thougli Peter might, for she should have her 
hands full with their new lodger. " The nicest, hand- 
somest young fellow," she wound up with ; " one it 
will be a pleasure to wait on." 

"Take care what you bo at, if he's a stranger," 
cried cautious Mrs. Stevens. " There's no trusting 
those country folk : they run away sometimes. It 
looks odd, don't it, to come after lodgings one minute, 
and enter ui»ou 'em the next?" 

" Very odd," a.-sented Mrs. Quale, with a laugh. 



DAFFODIL'S DELIGHT. 05 

" Why, it was Mr. Henry Hunter sent him round 
here ; and he has got a post in their house." 

" What sort of post ? " asked Mrs. Stevens, still 
sceptical. 

" Who knows ? Something superior to the Lest of 
us workpeoi)le, you may be sure. He belongs to 
gentlefolk," concluded Mrs. Quale. " I knew him as a 
baby. It was in his mother's family I lived before I 
manied. He's as like his mother as two peas, and 
a handsome woman was Mrs. Clay. Good-bye : I'm 
going to get the sheets on to his bed now." 

Mrs. Quale, however, found that she was, after all, 
able to assist at the supper; for, when Austin came 
back, it was only to dress himself and go out, in 
pursuance of the invitation he had accepted to dine 
at Mr. Henry Hunter's. With all his haste, it had 
struck six some minutes when he arrived there. 

Mrs. Henry Hunter, a very pretty and very talka- 
tive woman, welcomed him with both hands, and told 
her children to do the .same, for it was " the gentleman 
who had .saved papa." There was no ceremony ; he 
was received quite en fainille ; no other guest was 
present, and three or four of the children dined at 
table. He apjjcared to liml favcjiir with theiii all. 
Ho talked on business matters with Mi-. Henry 
Himter; on lighter topics with his wifi' ; he iioiiitm 
out some errors in Mary Hunter's drawings, which 
she somewhat ostentatiously exhibited to him, and 

K LUv's Secret. b 



66 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

showed her huw to rectify them. lie entered into 
the school life of the two young boys, from their 
classics to their scrapes ; and nursed a pretty little 
lady of five, who insisted on appropriating his knee — 
bearing himself throughout with the modest reticence, 
the refinement of the innate gentleman. Mrs. Henry 
Hunter was charmed with him. 

"How do you think you shall like your quarters?" 
she asked. " Mr. Hunter told me he recommended 
you to Peter Quale's." 

" Very well. At least they will do. Mi's. Quale, it 
appears, is an old friend of mine." 

" An old friend ! Of yours ! " 

" She claims me as one, and says she has nursed me 
many a time when I was a child. I had quite for- 
gotten her, and all about iier, though I now remember 
her name. She was formerly a servant in my mother's 
family, near Ketterford." 

Thus Austin Clay had succeeded without delay or 
difficulty in obtaining employment, and was, moreover, 
received on a footing of equality in the house of Mr. 
Henry Hunter. "We shall see how he gets on. 



( df ^ 



CHAPTER V. 

MISS gwinn's visit. 

Were there space, it might be well to trace Austin 
Clay's progress step by step — his advancements and 
liis drawbacks — his smooth-sailing and his difficulties ; 
for, that his course was nut free from difficulties and 
drawbacks you may be very sure. I do not know 
whose is. If any had thought he was to be rejirc- 
sented as perfection, they were mistaken. Yet he 
managed to hold on his way without moral damage, 
for he was liigh-principled in every sense of the word. 
But there is neither time nor space to give to these 
particulars that regard himself alone. 

Austin Clay sat one day in a small room at the 
office, making corrections in a certain plan, which had 
been roughly sketched. It was a liot day lor the 
bci^inninfj of autumn, some three or four months 
liaving elapsed .since liis installation at Hunter and 
Hunter's. The office-boy came in to interrupt him. 

" Plea.se, sir, here's a lady outside, asking if sho can 
Ree young Mi\ Clay." 



^ A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" A laily ! " repeated Austin, in some wonder. " Who 
is it ? " 

" I tliink slie's from the country, sir," said the sharp 
hoy. " She have got a big nosegay in licr hand and a 
brown reticule." 

" Does she wear widow's weeds ? " questioned Austin, 
hastily, an" idea flashing over him that Mrs. Thorni- 
niett might have come up to town. 

" Weeds ? " replied the boy, staring, as if at a loss to 
know what " weeds " might mean. " She have got a 
white veil on, sir." 

" Oh," said Austin. " Well, ask her to come iu. 
But I don't know any lady who can want me. Or 
who has any business to come here, if she does," he 
added to himself. 

' The lady came in : a very tall one. She wore a 
dark silk dress, a shepherd's plaid shawl, a straw 
bonnet, and a white veil. The reticule spoken of by 
the boy was in her hand ; but the no.segay she left on 
a bench just outside the door. Austin rose to receive 
her. 

" You are doubtless surprised to sec me, Austin 
Clay. But, as I was coming to London on business — 
I always do at this season of the year — I obtained 
your address from Mrs. Thornimett, having a question 
to put to you." 

Without ceremony, without invitation, she sat down 
on a chair. More by her voice than her features — for 



MISS GWINN'S VISIT. 69 

she kept her A'eil before her face — did Austin recognize 
her. It was Miss Gwinn. He recognized her with 
dismay. Mr. Henry Hunter was about the premises, 
liable to come in at any moment, and there might 
occur a repetition of that violent scene to which ho 
had been a witness. Often and often had his mind 
recurred to the affair; it perplexed him beyond 
measure. Was Mr. Henry Hunter the stranger to her 
he asserted himself to be, or was he not ? " What 
shall I do with her ? " thought Austin. 

" Will you shut the door ? " she said in peremptory 
tones, for the boy had left it open. 

" I beg your pardon. Miss Gwinn," interrupted 
Austin, necessity giving him courage. " Though glad 
to see you myself, I am at the present hour so busy 
that it is next to impossible for me to give you my 
"ttention. If you will name any place where I can 
wait upon you af*cr business hours, this, or any other 
evening, I shall be happy to meet you." 

Mi.ss Gwinn ranged her eyes round the room, look- 
ing, possibly, for confirmation of his words. "You 
ure not so busy as to be unable to spare a minute to 
mc. You were only looking over a plan." 

" It is a plan that is being waited for." Which was 
true. " And you must forgive me for reminding you 
— I do it in all courtesy — that my timo and this room 
do not belong to me, but to my employers." 

" Boy ! what 13 your motive for seeking to get rid 



70 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

of mc ? " she asked abruptly, " Tliat you have one, I 
can plainly see." 

Austin was upon thorns. He had not taken a seat. 
He stood near the door, pencil in hand, hoping it 
would induce her to move. At that moment footsteps 
were heard, and the office-door was pushed wide open. 

It was ^Ir. Hunter. He stopped on the threshold, 
seeing a lady, an unusual sight there, and came to the 
conclusion that it must be some stranger for Mr. Clay. 
Her features, shaded by the thick white veil, were 
indistinct, and Mr. Hunter merely glanced at her. 
Miss Gwinn, on the contrary, looked full at him, as she 
did at most people, and bent her head as a .slight mark 
of courte-sy. He responded by lifting his hat, and 
went out again. 

" One of the principals, I suppose ? " .she remarked. 

" Yes," he replied, feeling thankful that it was not 
^Ir. Henry. "I believe he wants me, Miss Gwinn." 

" I am not going to keep you from him. The 
question I wi.sh to put to 3'ou will be answered in a 
sentence. Austin Clay, have you, since " 

"Allow me one single instant first, then," interrupted 
Austin, resigning him.self to his fate, " ju.st to speak a 
word of explanation to Mr. Hunter." 

He stepi>ed out of the room and closed the door 
behind him. Standing at the outer door, close by, 
open to the yard, was Mr. Hunter. Austin, in his 
hasto and earnestne.s.s, gi-asped his arm, 



MISS GWINN'S VISIT. 71 

"Find Mr. Henry, sir," he whispered. "Wherever 
he may be, let him keep there — out of sight — until 
she — this person — has gone. It is Miss Gwinn." 

" Who ? \\Tiat do you say ? " cried Mr. Hunter, 
staring at Austin. 

" It is that Miss Gwinn. The woman who attacked 
Mr. Henry in that strange manner. She " 

Miss Gwinn opened the door at this juncture, and 
looked out upon them. J\lr. Hunter walked briskly 
away in search of his brother. Austin turned back 
again. 

Siie closed tlie door when he was inside the room, 
keeping her hand upon it. She did not sit down, but 
stood facing Austin, whom she held before her with 
the other hand. 

" Have you, since you came to London, seen aught 
of my enemy ? — that man whom you saved from his 
death in the gravel-pits ? Boy ! answer me truthfully." 

He remained silent, scarcely seeing what his course 
ought to be ; or whether m such a case a denial might 
not be justifiable. But the hesitation was fatal to 
that, for she read it rightl}'. 

" No need of your afHrmativc," she sai<l. " I sco 
you have met him. WIkic is lie U^ be found i " 

There was only one course open to him now; and 
he took it, in all straightforwardjioss. 

"It is true I have seen that gentlcmuu, Mi.ss Gwinn, 
but I can tell you nothing about him." 



72 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

She looked fixedly at him. " That you cannot, or 
that you will not ? Which ? " 

" That I will not. Forgive the seeming incivilit}'' 
of the avowal, but I consider that I ought not to 
comply with your request — that I should bo doing 
wrong ? " 

" Explain. What do you mean by ' wrong ' ? " 

"In the first place, I believe 3'ou were mistaken 
with regard to the gentleman : I do not think he was 
the one for whom you took him. In the second place, 
even if he be the one, I cannot make it my business 
to bring you into contact with him, and so give rise — 
as it probably w^ould — to further violence." 

There was a pause. She threw up her veil and 
looked fixedly at him, struggling for compo.sure, her 
lips compressed, her face working. 

"You know who ho is, and where he lives," sho 
jerked out at length. 

" I acknowledge that." 

" How dare you take part against me ? " .she cried, 
in agitation. 

" I do not take part against you, Miss Gwinn," ho 
re])lied, wishing some friendly balloon would come and 
whirl her away ; for Mr. Hunter might not find Ids 
Inothcr to give the warning. " I do not take his part 
any more than I take yours, only in so far as that 
I decline to tell you who and where he i.s. Had he 
the same ill-feeling towards you, and wished to 



MISS GWINN'S VISIT. 78 

know where you might be found, I would not tell 
him." 

"Austin Clay, you shall tell me." 

He drew himself up to his full height, speaking in 
all the quiet consciousness of resolution. "Never of 
my own free will. And I think, Miss Gwinn, there 
are no means by which you can compel me." 

" Perhaps the law might do so ? " She spoke 
dreamily, not in answer to him, but in commune with 
herself, as if debating the question. " Fare you well 
for the present, young man ; but I have not done with 
you." 

To his intense satisfaction, she turned out of tlio 
office, taking up the flowers as she went. Austin 
attended her to the outer gate. She strode straight 
on, not deigning to cast a glance to the busy yard, 
with its sheds, its timber, its implements of work, and 
its artisans, all scattered about it. 

"Believe mc," ho said, holding out liis hand as a 
peace-offering, " I ain not willingly discourteous. I 
wish I could SCO my way clear to helping you." 

She did not take the hand: she walked away with- 
out another word or look, and Austin went back again. 
.Mr. Hunter advanced to meet him from the upper end 
of the yard, and went with him into the .small room. 

" What was all that about, Clny ? T scarcely 
understood." 

*' I dare say not, sir, fur I had no time to explain. 



74 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

It seems she — Miss Gwinn — lias come to town on 
business. She procured my address from Mrs. Thomi- 
mett, and came here to ask of me if I had seen any- 
thing of her enemy — meaning Mr. Henry Hunter. I 
feared lest he should be coming in ; I could only beg 
of you to find Mr. Henry, and -svarn him not to do so. 
That is all, sir." 

Mr. Hunter stood with his back to Austin, softly 
whistling — his habit when in deep thought. " What 
can be her motive for wanting to find him ? " he pre- 
sently said. 

" She speaks of revenge. Of course I do not know 
for what : I cannot give even a guess. There's no 
doubt she is mistaken in the person, when she accuses 
^Ir. Henry Hunter." 

" Well," returned Mr. Hunter, " I said nothing to my 
brother, for I did not understand what there was to 
say. It will be better not to tell him now ; the woman 
is gone, and the subject does not appear to be a 
pleasant one. Do you hear ? " 

" Very well, sir." 

"I think I understood, when the affair was spoken 
of some time ago, that sho does not know him as Mr. 
Hunter ? " 

" Of course she does not," said Austin. " She wouM 
have been here after him before now if she did. She 
came this morning to see me, not suspecting she might 
meet him." 



MISS GWINN'8 VISIT. 75 

" Ah ! Better keep the visit close," cried Mr. Hunter, 
as he wafked away. 

Now, it had occurred to Austin that it would be 
better to do just the opposite thing. He should have 
told Mr. Henry Hunter, and left that gentleman to 
seek out Miss Gwinn, or not, as he might choose. A 
sudden meeting between them in the office, in the 
hearing of the 5'ard, and with the lady in excitement, 
was not to be desired ; but that ^[r. Henry Hunter 
should clear himself, now that she wafe following him 
up, and convince her it was not he who was the 
suspected party, was, Austin thought, needful — that is, 
if he could do it. However, he could only obey Mr. 
Hunter's suggestions. 

Austin resumed his occupation. His brain and 
fingers were busy over the plan, when he saw a gig 
drive into the yoxH. It contained the great engineer, 
Sir Michael Wilson. Mr. Henr}" Hunter came down 
the yard to meet him ; they shook hands, and entered 
the private room together. In a few minutes Mr. 
Henry came to Austin. 

" Arc you particularly engaged, Clay C " 

" Only with this plan, sir. It is wanted a.s .soon as 1 
can get it done." 

"You can leave it for a f|uartor-of-an-hotir. I wish 
3'ou to go round to Dr. Bevary. I was to have been 
at his house now — half-past eleven — to accompany 
him on a visit to a sick friend. T«'ll him that 



76 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Sir Michael has come, and I have to go out with him, 
therefore it is impossible for me to keep my engagement. 
I am very sorry, tell Bevary : these things always 
liappon crossl}'. Go right into his consulting-room, 
Clay ; never mind patients ; or else he will be chafing 
at my delay, and grumble the ceiling off." 

Austin departed. Dr. Bevary occupied a large 
house in the main street, to the left of the yard, to 
gain which he had to pass the turning to Daffodil's 
Delight. Had Dr. Bevary lived to the right of the 
yanl, his practice might have been more exclusive ; 
but doctors cannot always choose their localities, 
circumstances more frequently doing that for them. 
He had ii large connexion, and was often pressed fur 
time. 

Down went Austin, and reached the house. Just 
inside the open door, before which a close carriage 
was standing, was the doctor's servant. 

" Dr. Bevary is engaged, sir, with a lady patient," 
said the man. " He is particularly engaged for the 
moment, but I don't think he'll be long." 

" I'll wait," said Austin, not deeming it well .strictly 
t(j follow Mr. Henry Hunter's directions ; and he 
turned, without ceremony, to the little box of a study 
on the left of the hall. 

" Not there, sir," interposed the man hastily, and he 
showed him into the drawing-room on the right; Dr. 
IJevary and his patient being in the consulting-rooni, 



MISS GWINN'S VISIT. 11 

Ten minutes of impatience to Austin. What could 
any lady mean by keeping liim so long, in his own 
house ? Then they came forth. The lady, very red 
and portly, and rather old, was pushed into her carriage 
by the help of her footman, Austin watching the process 
from the window. The carriage then drove off. 

The doctor did not come in. Austin concluded the 
servant must have forgotten to tell him he was there. 
He crossed the hall to the little study, the doctor's pri- 
vate room, knocked and entered. 

" I am not to care for patients," he called out gaily, 
believing the doctor was alone ; " Mr. Henry Hunter 
BB.ys so." But to his surprise, a patient was sitting 
there — at least, a lady ; sitting, nose and knees together 
with Dr. Be vary, and talking hurriedly and earnestly, 
as if they had the whole weight of the nation's affairs 
on their shoulders. 

It was Miss Gwinn. Tlie flowers had a})parently 
found their home, for they were in a vase on tlie table. 
Austin took it all in at a glance. 

" So it is you, is it, Austin Clay ? " .she exclaimed. 
" I was acquainting Dr. Bevary with your refusal to 
give me that man's addres.s, and asking his opinion 
whether the law could compel you. Have you come 
after me to .say you have thought better of it ? " 

Au.stin was decidedly taken Imck. It miglit have 
been his fancy, but he thought he saw a look of caution 
go out to him from Dr. Bovary's eyes. 



73 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Was your visit to this lady, Mr. Clay ? " 

"No, sir, it was to you. Sir Michael Wilson has 
come down on business, and Mr. Henry Hunter will 
not be able to keep his appointment with you. He 
desired me to say tliat he was sorry, but that it was 
no fault of his." 

Dr. Bevary nodded. " Tell him I was about to send 
round to say that I could not keep mine with him, so 
it's all right. Another day will " 

A sharp cry. A cry of passion, of rage, almost of 
terror. It came from Miss Gwinn ; and the doctor, 
breaking off his sentence, turned to her in amazement. 

It was well he did so; it was well he caught her 
hand.s. Another moment, and she would have dashed 
them through the window, and perhaps herself also. 
Driving by, in the gig, were Sir Michael Wilson and 
j\Ir. Henry Hunter. It was at the latter she gazed, at 
him she pointed. 

" Do you sec him ? Do you see him ? " she panted 
to the doctor. '• That's the man ; not the one driving; 
the otlier — the one sitting this way. Oh, Dr. Bevary, 
will you believe me now ? I told you I met him at 
Ketterford ; and there he is again ! Let me go ! " 

She was strong almost aa a wild animal, wrestling 
with the doctor to break from him. He made a motion 
to Austin to keep the door, and there ensued a sharp 
struggle. Dr. Bevary got her into an arm-chair at 
last, and stood before her, holding her hand.s, at first 



mSS GWINN'S VISIT. 79 

in silence. Then he spoke cahnly, soothingly, as he 
would to a child. 

" My dear lady, what will become of you if you give 
way to these fits of violence ? But for me, I really 
believe you would have been through the window. A 
pretty afl'air of spikes that would be ! I should have 
had you laid up in my house for a month, covered 
with sticking-plaster." 

" If you had not stopped me, I might have caught 
that gig," was her passionate rejoinder. 

" Caught that gig ! A gig going at the rate of ten 
miles an hour, if it was going one ! By the time you 
had got down the steps of my door it would have been 
out of sight. How people can drive at that random 
rate in London streets, / can't think." 

" IIow can I find him ? How can I lind him ? " 

Her tone was quite a wail of anguish. However 
they might deprecate her mistaken violence, it was 
impossible but that both her hearei*s should feci 
compassion for her. She laid her hand on the doctor'.s 
arm. 

" Will you not help me to find him, Br. Bevary ? 
Did you note him ? " 

" So far as to see that there were two persons in the 
gig, and that they were men, not women. Do you feel 
sure it was the man you sjicak of? It is so easy to 
be mistaken in a person who is being whirled swiftly 
along." 



80 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

"Mistaken!" she returned, in strangely significant 
tones. " Dr. Bevary, I am sure it was lie. I have not 
kept him in my mind for yeai-s, to mistake him now. 
Austin Clay," she fiercely added, turning round upon 
Austin, "you speak; speak the truth; I saw you look 
after them. Was it, or was it not, the man whom I 
met at Ketterford ? " 

" I believe it was," was Austin's answer. " Never- 
theless, Miss Gwinn, I do not believe him to be the 
enemy you spoke of — the one who worked you ill. He 
denies it just as solemnly as you assert it; and I am 
sure he is a truthful man." 

" And that I am a liar ? " 

"No. That you believe what you assert is only too 
apparent. I think it a case, on your side, of mistaken 
identity." 

Happening to raise his eyes, Austin caught those of 
Dr. Bevary fi.Ked upon him with a keen, troubled, 
earnest gaze. It a.sked, as plainly as a gaze could 
a.sk, "Do you believe so? or is the falsehood on his 
side?" 

" Will you disclose to Dr. Bevary the name of that 
man, if you will not to me ? " 

Again the gentlemen's eyes met, and this time 
an unmistakable warning gleamed forth from Dr. 
Bevary 's. Austin could only obey it. 

"I must decline to speak of him in any way, Mi.ss 
Csvinn," said he; " vou had mv reasons before. Dr. 



MISS GWINN'S VISIT. 81 

Bovaiy, I have given you the message I was charged 
with. I must wish you both good-day." 

Austin walked back, full of thought, his belief some- 
wliat wavering. " It is very strange," he reflected. 
" Could a woman, could any one be so positive as she 
is, unless thorouglily certain ? What is the mystery, 
I wonder ? That it was no sentimental aflfair between 
them, or rubbish of that sort, is patent by the differ- 
ence of their ages ; she looks pretty nearly old enough 
to be his mother. ]^Ir. Henry Hunter's is a remark- 
able face — one that Mould alter little in a score of 
years." 

Tlie bell was ringing twelve as ho approached the 
yard, and the workmen were pouring out of it, on their 
way home to dinner. Plentiful tables awaited them ; 
little care was on their minds ; flourishing was every 
branch of the building trade then. Peter Quale came 
up to Austin. 

"Sam Shuck have just been up here, sir, a-eating 
humble pie, and praying to be took on again. But the 
masters be both absent; and Mr. Mills, he said ho 
didn't choose, in a thing like this, to act on his own 
responsibility, for he heard Mr. Hunter say Shuck 
shouldn't again be employed." 

"I would not take him on," replied Austin, "if it 
rested with me; an idle, skulking, deceitful vagabond, 
drunk and incapable at one time, striving to spread 
discontent amongst the men at another. Ho has been 

A Llf«'( Secret. 6 



82 A LIFE'S SECHET. 

on the loose for a fortnight now, F.ut it is not my 
affair, Quale; Mr. Mills is manager." 

The yard, between twelve and one, was very nearly 
deserted. The gentleman spoken of as Mr. Mills, and 
Austin, usually remained ; the principals would some- 
times be there, and an odd man or two. The time- 
keeper lived in the yard. Austin rather liked that 
hour; it was quiet. Ho was applying himself to his 
plan with a zest, when another interruption came, in 
the shape of Dr. Bevary. Austin began to think ho 
might as well put the drawing away altogether. 

"Any one in the offices, Mr. Clay, except you?" 
asked the doctor. 

"Not indoors. Mills is about somewhere." 
Down sat the doctor, and fixed his keen eyes upon 
Austin. "AVhat took place here this morning with 
Miss Gwinn?" 

"No harm sir," replied Austin, briefly explaining. 
" As it happenetl, Mr. Henry kept away. Mr. Hunter 
came in and saw her ; but that was all." 

" What is your opinion ? " abruptly asked the doctor. 
" Come, give it freely. You have your share of judg- 
ment, and of discretion too, or I should not a.sk it. Is 
she mistaken, or is Henry Hunter false ? " 

Austin did not immediately reph'. Dr. Bevary mis- 
took the cause of his silence. 

"Don't hesitate. Clay. You know I am trust- 
worthy; and it is not I who would stir to harm a 



MISS GWINN'S VISIT. 83 

Hunter. If I seek to come to the bottom of this 
affair, it is that I may do Avhat I can to repair damage ; 
to avert some of the fruits of wrong-doing." 

"If I hesitated, Dr. Bevary, it was that I am really 
at a loss what answer to give. Wlien Mr. Henry 
Hunter denies that he knows the woman, or that he 
ever has known her, he appears to me to speak open 
truth. On tlie other hand, these recognitions of Miss 
Gwinn's, and her persistency, are, to say the least of 
them, suspicious and singular. Until within an hour 
I had full trust in Mr. Henry Hunter ; now I do not 
know what to think. She seemed to recognize him in 
the gig so surely." 

"He does not appear" — Dr. Bevary seemed to be 
speaking to himself, and his head was bent — " like one 
who carries about with him some dark secret." 

" Mr. Henry Hunter ? None less. Never a man 
whose exterior gave indications of a clearer conscience. 
But, Dr. Bevary, if her enemy be Mr. Henry Hunter, 
liow is it she docs not know him by name ? " 

"Ay, there's another point. She evidently attaclies 
no importance to the name of Hunter." 

" What v/as the name of — of the enemy she talks 
of? "asked Austin. "We nnist cnll him 'enemy' fur 
want of a better name. Do you know it, doctor ? " 

"No. Can't get it out of her. Never could got it 
out of her, I asked her again to-day, but she evaded 
the question." 



84 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Mr. Hunter thought it would be better to keep her 
visit this morning a secret from liis brother, as they 
liaJ not met. I, on the contrary, should have told him 
of it." 

" No," hastily interposed Dr. Bevary, putting up his 
hand with an alarmed, warning gesture. " The only 
way is to keep her and Henry Hunter apart." 

" I wonder," mused Austin, " what brings her to 
town ? " 

The doctor threw his penetratirg gaze into Austin's 
eyes. " Have you no idea what it is ? " 

" None, sir. She seemed to intimate that she came 
every year." 

"Good. Don't try to form any, my young friend. 
It would not be a pleasant secret, even for you to 
hold!" 

He rose as he spoke, nodded, and went out, leaving 
Austin Clay in a state of bewilderment. It was not 
lessened when, an hour later, Austin encountered Dr. 
Bcvary's close carriage, driving rapidly along the 
street, the doctor seated within it, and Miss Gwinn 
beside him. 



( S5 ) 



CHAPTER VI. 



TRACKED HOME, 



I THINK it has been mentioned that the house next 
door to the Quales', but detached from it was inhabited 
by two families : the lower part by Mr. Samuel Shuck, 
his wife and children ; the upper and better part by 
the Baxendales. No two sets of people could be more 
dissimilar ; the one being as respectable as the other 
was disreputable. John Baxendale's wife was an 
invalid ; she had been so, on and off, for a long time. 
There was an only daughter, and she and her mother 
held themselves very much aloof from the general 
society of Daffodil's Delight. 

On the morning following tlic day .spoken of in tho 
last chapter as distinguished by the advent of Miss 
Gwinn in London, Mrs. Baxendale found herself con- 
siderably worse than usual. Mr. Rice, the apothecary, 
who was the general attendant in Daffodil's Delight, 
and lived at its corner, had given her medicine, and 
told her to " cat well and get uj> her strength." But, 
somehow, strength and appetite did not come ; on 



86 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

the contrary, she grew weaker and weaker. She was 
in very bad spirits this morning, was quite unable to 
get up, and cried for some time in silence. 

"Mother, dear," said Mary Baxendale, going into 
her room, " you'll have the doctor gone out, I fear." 

" Oh, Mary ! I cannot get up — I cannot go," was the 
answer, delivered with a burst of sobbinfj sorrow. " I 
shall never rise from my bed again." 

The words fell on the daughter with a terrible shock. 
Her fears in re^aixl to* her mother's health had loner 
been excited, but this seemed like a confirmation of a 
result she had never dared to face openly. She was 
not a very capable sort of girl — the reverse of what 
is called strong-minded ; but the instinct imparted by 
all true affection warned her to make light of her 
mother's words. 

"Nay, mother, it's not so bad as that," she said, 
checking her tears. " You'll get up again fast enough. 
You are feeling low, maybe, this morning." 

" Child, I am too weak to get up — too ill. I don't 
think I shall ever be about again." 

Mary sat down in a sort of helpless perplexity. 

" What is to be done ? " she cried. 

Mrs. Baxendale asked herself the same question as 
she lay there. Finding herself no better under Mr. 
Kice's treatment, slie had at length determined to do 
what she ought to have done at first — consult Dr. 
Bevary. 



TOACKED HOME. 87 

From half-past eight to ten, three mornings in the 
week, Dr. Bevary gave advice gratis ; and Mrs. Baxen- 
dale was on this one to have gone to him — rather a 
formidable visit, as it seemed to her, and perhaps the 
very thought of it had helped to make her worse. 

" What is to be done ? " repeated Mary. 

"Could you not wait upon him, child, and describe 
my symptoms ? " suggested the sick woman, after 
weifjhinjj the dilemma in her mind. " It might do as 
well. Perhaps he can write for me." 

" Oh, mother, I don't like to go ! " exclaimed Mary, in 
the impulse of the moment. 

" But, my dear, what else is to be done ? " urged Mrs. 
Baxendale. " Wc can't ask a great gentleman like that 
to come to me." 

" To be sure — true. Oh yes, I'll go, mother." 

Mary made herself ready Avithout another word. 
Mi's. Baxendale, a superior woman I'ur her station in 
life, had brought up her daughter to be thoroughly 
dutifuL It had seemed a formidable task to tlio 
mother, going to tliis physician, this 'great gentle- 
man;' it seemed a i'ur worse to the daughter, and 
especially having to explain symptoms and ailments 
at .second-hand. But tlie great physician was a very 
pleasant man, and would nod good-humouredly to 
Mary, when by chance he met lier in the street. 

" Tell him, with my duty, that I am not equal to 
coming myself," said Mrs. Baxendale, when Mury stood 



88 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

ready in her neat straw bonnet and light shall. " I 
ought to liave gone weeks ago, and that's the truth. 
Don't forget to describe the pain in my right side, and 
the flushings of heat." 

So Mary went on her way, and was admitted to tlie 
presence of Dr. Bevary, where she told her tale with 
awkward timidity. 

" Ah ! a return of the old weakness that she had 
years ago," remarked the doctor. " I told her she 
must be careful. Too ill to get up ? \Vhy did she 
not come to me before ? " 

" I suppose, sir, she did not much like to troub.e 
you," responded Mary. " She has been hoping from 
week to week that Mr. Rice would do her good." 

" / can't do her good, unless I see her," cried the 
doctor. " I might prescribe just the wrong thing, you 
know." 

Mary repressed her tears. 

"I am afraid, then, she nmst die, sir. She said this 
morning she thought she should never get up from her 
bed again." 

" I'll step round some time to-day and see her," said 
Dr. Bevary. " But now, don't you go chattering that 
to the whole parish. I should have eveiy sick person 
in it expecting me, as a right, to call and visit them." 

He laughed pleasantly at Mary as he spoke, and she 
departed with a glad heart. The visit had been so 
much leas formidable in reality than in anticipation. 



TRACKED HOME. 89 

As she reached Daffodil's Delight, she did not turn 
into it, but continued her way to the house of Mrs. 
Hunter. ]^Iary Baxcndale took in plain sewing, and 
liad some in hand at present from that lady. She 
inquired for Dobson. Dobson was Mrs, Hunter's own 
maid, and a very consequential one. 

" Not able to get Miss Hunter's night-dresses 
home on Saturday 1 " grumbled Dobson, when she 
appeared and heard what Mary had to say. "But 
you must, ^lary Baxendale. You promised them, you 
know." 

"I should not have promised had I known that my 
mother would have grown worse/' said Mar3^ "A 
sick person requires a deal of waiting on, and there's 
only me. I'll do what I can to get them home next 
week, if that will do." 

"I don't know that it will do," .snapped Dobson. 
" Miss Florence may be wanting them. A promise is 
a promise, Mary Baxen<lak'." 

" Yes, it will do, Mary,'' cried Florence Hunter, 
darting from some forbidden nook, whence she had 
heard the colloquy, uud following Mary down tlit^ 
steps into the street. A fair sight was tluit child to 
look upon, with her white muslin dress, her blue 
ribbons, her flowing hair, and her sweet countenance, 
radiant as a summer's morning. " ^lamma is not 
downstairs yet, or I would a.sk her — she is ill, too — 
but T know I do nut want them. Never mind them, 



90 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

and never mind Dobson either, but nurse your 
mother." 

Dobson drew the young lady back, asknig her if 
such behaviour was not enough to "scandalize the 
square ; " and Mary Baxendale returned home. 

Dr. Bevary paid his visit to Mrs. Baxendale about 
midday. His i)ractised eye saw with certainty what 
others were only beginning to suspect — that Death 
had set his mark upon her. He wrote a prcscrij)tion, 
gave some general directions, said he would call again, 
and told Mrs. Baxendale she would be better out of 
bed than in it. 

Accordingly, after his departure, she got up and 
went into the front-room, which they made their 
sitting-room. But the exertion caused her to faint , 
she was certainly on this day much worse than usual 
Juhn Baxendale was terribly concerned, and did not 
go back to his work after dinner. "When the bu.stle 
was over, and .she seemed pretty comfortable again, 
some one burst into the room, without knock or other 
ceremony. It was one of the Shucks, a young man of 
eight, in tattered clothes, and a shock head of hair. 
He came to announce that Mrs. Hunter's maid was 
aaking for Mar}', and little Miss Hunter was there, 
too, and said, miglit she come up and see Mrs. Baxen- 
dale. 

Both were requested to walk up. Dobson had 
brought a gracious message from her mistress (not 



TRACKED HOME. 01 

graciously delivered, though), that the sewing might 
wait till it was quite convenient to do it ; and Florence 
produced ajar, which she had insisted upon carrying 
hei-self, and had thereby split her grey kid gloves, it 
being too large for her hands. 

"It is black-cun-ant jelly, Mrs. Baxendale," she said, 
with the prettiest, kindest air in the world, as she 
freely sat down by the sick woman's side. " I asked 
mamma to let me bring some, for I remember when I 
was ill I only liked black-currant jelly. Mamma is 
so sorry to hear you arc worse, and she will come to 
see you soon." 

'* Bless your little heart, Miss Florence ! " exclaimed 
the invalid. " The same dear child as ever — thinking 
of other people and not of yourself" 

" I ha\c no need to think for myself," said Florence. 
" Everything I want is got ready for me. I wish you 
did not look so ill. I wish you would have my uncle 
Bevary to sec you. He cures every one." 

" He has been kind enough to come round to-day, 
miss," spoke up John Baxendale, "and he'll come 
again, he says. I hope he will be able to do the 
mi-sflis good. As you be a bit better," he added to his 
wife, •' I think I'll go back to my work." 

" Ay, do, John. There's no cause fur you to .stay 
at home. It was some sort of weakness, I suppose, 
tliat came over me." 

John Baxendale touched his hair to Florence, nodded 



92 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

to Dobson, went tlownstairs and departed. Florence 
turned to tlie open window to watch him, ever rest- 
less, as a healthy child is apt to be. 

" There's Uncle Henry 1 " she suddenly called out. 

Mr. Henry Hunter was walking rapidly down 
Daflbdil's Delight. He encountered John Baxendale 
as the man went out of his gate. 

" Not back at work yet, Baxendale ? " 

" The missis has been taken worse, sir," wa.s the 
man's reply. "She fainted dead off just now, and 
I declare I didn't know what to think about her. 
She's all right again, and I am going round." 

At that moment there was heard a tapping at the 
window-panes, and a pretty little head was pu.shed 
out beneath them, nodding and laughing, " Uncle 
Henry ! How do you do, Uncle Henry ? " 

Mr. Henry Hunter nodded in reply, and pursued 
his way, unconscious that the lynx eye of Miss Gwiun 
was following him, like a hawk watching its prey. 

It happened that she had penetrated to Daffodil's 
Delight, hoping to catch Austin Clay at dinner, which 
she supposed he might be taking about that hour. 
She held his address at Peter Quale's from Mrs. 
Thorniiuett. Her object was to make a further effort 
to draw from him what he knew of the man she 
sought to find. Scarcely had she turned into Daffodil's 
Delight, when she saw Mr. Henry Hunter at a distance. 
Away she tore after him, and gained upon him con- 



TRACKED HOME. 93 

siderably. She reached the house of John Baxcndale 
just as he, Baxendale, was re-entering it; for lie liad 
forgotten something he must take with him to the 
yard. Turning her head upon Baxendale for a 
minute as she passed, Miss Gwinn lost sight of Mr. 
Henry Hunter. 

How had he disappeared ? Into the ground ? or 
into a house ? or down any obscure passage that 
might be a short-cut between Daffodil's Delight, and 
some other Delight ? or into that cab that was now 
whirling onwards at such a rate ? That he was no 
longer visible, was certain: and Miss Gwinn was 
exceeding wroth. She came to the conclusion that ho 
had seen her, and hidden himself in the cab, though 
she had not heard it stop. 

But she had seen him spoken to from the window 
of that house where the workman had just gone in, 
and she determined to make inquiries there, and so 
strode up the path. In the Shucks' kitchen there 
were only three or four children, too young to give 
an answer. Miss Gwinn picked her way through 
them, over the dirt and grease of the floor, and 
ascended to the sitting-room above. She stood a 
minute to take in its view. 

John Baxendale was on his knees, hunting amongst 
some tools at the bottom of a closet ; Mary was 
meekly exhibiting the progress of the night-gowns to 
Dobson, who sat in state, sour enough to turn milk 



94 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

into curd; the invalid was lying, pale, in her chair; 
whilst the young lady appeared to be assisting at the 
tool-hunting, on her knees also, and chattering as fast 
as her tongue could go. All looked up at the 
apparition of the stranger, who stood gazing in upon 
them. 

" Can you tell me where a gentleman of the name 
of Lewis lives ? " she began, in an indirect, diplomatic, 
pleasant sort of way, for she no doubt deemed it well 
to discard violence for tact. In the humour she was 
in yesterday, she would have said, sharply and im- 
periously, " Tell rae the name of that man I saw now 
pass your gate." 

John * Baxendale rose. " Lewis, ma'am ? I don't 
know anybody of the name." 

A pause. " It is very unfortunate," she mildly 
resumed. " I am in search of the gentleman, and 
have not got his address. I believe he belongs to this 
neighbourhood. Indeed, I am almost sure I saw 
him talking to you just now at the gate — though 
my sight is none of the clearest from a distance. 
The same gentleman to whom that young lady 
nodded." 

" That was my uncle Henry," called out the child. 

" Who ? " cried she, sharply. 

" It was Mr. Henry Hunter, ma'am, that was," 
spoke up Baxendale. 

" Mr. Henry Hunter I " she repeated, as she knit 



TRACKED HOME. 95 

her brow on John Baxcndalo. " That gcntleraau is 
Mr. Lewis.'* 

" No, that he is not," said John Baxendale. " I 
ought to know, ma'am ; I have worked for liim for 
some years." 

Here the mischief might have ended ; there's no 
telling ; but that busy little tongue of all tongues — 
ah ! what work they make ! — began clapping again. 

" Perhaps you mean my papa ? Papa's name is 
Lewis — James Lewis Hunter. But he is never called 
Mr. Lewis. He is brother to my uncle Henry.* 

A wild flush of crimson flashed over Miss Gwinn's 
sallow face. Something within her seemed to whisper 
that her search was over. " It is possible I mistook 
the one for the other in the distance," she observed, 
all her new diplomacy in full play. "Are they alike 
in person ? " she continued to Jolm Baxendale. 

" Not .so much alike now, ma'am. In yeai-s gone 
hy they were the very model of one another ; but Mr. 
Hunter has grown stout, and it has greatly altered 
him. Mr. Henry looks just like what I\rr. Hunt^^'r 
used to look." 

"And who are you, did you say?" she asked of 
Florence with an emphasis that would have been 
quite wild, but that it was in a degree suppressed. 
" You are not Mr. Lewis Hunter's daughter ? " 

" I am," said Miss Florence. 

" And — you have a mother ? " 



96 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Of course I have," repeated the child. 

A pause : the lady looked at John Baxcndalo. 
" Then ^Ir. Lewis Hunter is a married man ? " 

" To be sure he is," said John, " ever so many years 
ago. Miss Florence is twelve." 

" Thank you," said Miss Gwinn, abruptly turning 
away. " Good -morning." 

She went down the stairs at a great rate, and did 
not stay to pick her steps over the untidiness of the 
Shucks' floor. 

" What a mistake to make ! " was her inward com- 
ment, and she laughed as she said it. " 1 di<l not 
sufficiently allow for the lapse of years. If tliat 
younger one had lost his life in the gravel-pits, he 
would have died an innocent man." 

Away to the yard now, as fast as her legs would 
carry her. In turning in, she ran against Austin Clay. 

" I want to speak with Mr. Hunter," she imperiously 
saifl. " Mr. Lewis Hunter — not the one I saw in the 

(rill- ' 

" Mr. Hunter is out of town, Mi.ss Gwinn," w^as 
Austin's rej)ly. " We do not expect him at the yard 
to-day ; he will not be home in time to come to it." 

" Boy ! you arc deceiving mo ! " 

" Indeed I am not," he returned. " Why should I ? 
Mr. Hunter is not in the habit of being denied to 
applicants. You might have spoken to him yesterday, 
when you saw him, had it pleased you so to do." 



TRACKED HOME. 97 

" I never saw him yesterday," 

" Yes, you did, Miss Gwimi. That gentleman who 
came into the office and bowed to you was Mr. 
Hunter." 

She stared Austin full in the face, as if unable to 
believe what he said. " That Mr, Hunter ? — Lewis 
Hunter ? " 

" It was." 

Ilf so, liovj he is altered ! " And, throwing up her 
arms with a strange, wild gesture, she turned and 
strode out of the yard. The next moment Austin 
gaw her come into it again. 

" I want Mr. Lewis Hunter's private address, Austin 
Clay." 

But Austin was on his guard now. He did not 
reli-sh the idea of giving any one's private address to 
such a person as Misti Gwinn, who might or might 
not be mad. 

She detected his reluctance. 

" Keep it from me, if you choose, boy," .she said, 
with a laugh that had a ring of .scorn in it. " l^cttcr 
for you perhaps to bo on the safe side. The 
first workman I meet will give it me, or a court 
guide." 

Ami thus saying, she finally turned away. At nny 
rate for the time being. 

Austin Clay resumed his work, ami the day pa.s.se. I 
on to evening. When Imsincss was over, he went 

A l.if-'s S.<rit. 7 



9S A LIFE'S SECRET. 

homo to make some alteration in liis dress, for lie had 
to go by appointment to Mr. Hunter's, and on these 
occasions ho generally remained with them. It was 
beginning to grow dusk, and a chilliness seemed to be 
in the air. 

The house occupied by Sir. Hunter was one of tho 
best in the square. Ascending by a flight of step.s, 
and passing through a pillared portico, you found 
yourself in a handsome hall, paved in imitation of 
mo.saic. Two spacious sitting-rooms were on the left : 
the front one was used as a dining-room, the other 
opened to a conservatory. On the right of the hall, n 
l)road flight of stairs led to the apartments above, one 
of which was a drawing-room, fitted up with costly 
elegance. 

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter were seated in tho dining- 
room. Florence was there also, but not seated ; it 
may be questioned if she ever did sit, except when 
compelled to do so. Dinner was over, but they 
frequently made this their evening sitting-room. The 
drawing-room upstairs was grand and stately, the 
room behintl was dull; this was cheerful, and looked 
out on the square. Especially cheerful it looked 
on this evening;, fur a fire had been lighted in the 
grate, and it cast a warm glow around in the fading 
twilight. 

Austin Clay was shown in, and invited to a scat by 
the fire, near Mrs. Hunter. He had come in Dbedience 



TRACKED HO^IE. 99 

to orders from Mr. Hunter, issued to him when he, 
Mr. Hunter, had bean going out that morning. His 
journey had been connected with certain buildings 
then in progress, and he thought he might liave 
directions to give with respect to the following morn- 
ing's early work. 

A few minutes given by Austin and his master to 
business matters, and then the latter left the room, 
and Austin turned to Mrs. Hunter. Unusually 
delicate she looked, as she half sat, half reclined in 
her chair, the firelight playing on her features. 
Florence had dragged forth a stool, and was sitting 
on it in a queer sort of fashion, at Austin's feet. Ho 
was a gi'eat favourite of hers, and she made no secret 
of the liking. 

" Vou are not looking well this evening," he 
observed, in a gentle tone, to Mrs. Hunter. 

"I am not feeling well. I scarcely ever do feel 
well ; never strong. I sometimes think, Mr. Clay, 
what a mercy it is that we are not permitted to fore- 
see the future. If we could, some of us might be 
tempted to — to — " she hesitated, and then went on 
in a lower tone — " to pray that God might take us in 
our youth." 

"The longer we live, the more we become imprcssocl 
with the wonderful wisdom that exists in the ordering 
of all things," replied Austin. " My yeai*s have not 
been man}', comparatively speaking; but I sen it 



100 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 

always, and I know tliat I shall see ifc more and 
more." 

" The confirmed invalid, the man of care and sorrow, 
the incessant battle for existence with those reduced 
to extreme poverty — had they seen their future, as in 
a mirror, liow could they have borne to enter upon 
it?" dreamily observed Mrs. Hunter. "And yet, I 
have heard people exclaim, ' How I wish I could 
foresee my destiny, and what is to hai»pt'n to me !' " 

" But the cares and ills of the world do not come 
near you, Mr.s. Hunter," spoke Austin, after a pause 
of thouglit. 

Mrs. Hunter smiled. " From the cares and cro.sses 
of the world, as we generally estimate cares and 
crosses, I am free. God has spared me them. He 
does not overwhelm us with ills ; if one ill is par- 
ticularly our portion, we are generally spared others. 
.Mine lie in my want of health, and in the thought 
that — that — I am rarely free from pain and suffering," 
she concluded. But Austin felt that it was not what 
she had been about to .say. 

" What should we do if all the ills came to u.s, 
mamma ? " crie<l Florence, who had been .still, and 
was listening 

"My dear, if all the ills came to us, God would 
show us a wav to bear them. You know that He 
lias promised so nnich ; and His promises cannot 
rail." 



TRACKED HOME. 101 

* 

"Clay," cried Mr. Hunter, returning to the room 
and resuming his seat, " did any one in particular call 
and want me to-day ? " 

" No, sir. Several came, but Mr. Henry saw them." 

" Did Arkwright come ? ' resumed Mr. Hunter. 

" 1 think not ; I did not see him. That — lady — 
who was there yesterday, came again. She asked for 
you." 

A pause. Then Mr. Hunter spoke up sharply. 
" For my brother, you mean. She must have wanted 
him." 

" She certainly asked for you, sir. For Mr. Lewis 
Hunter." 

Those little ears pricked themselves up, and their 
owner unceremoniously wheeled herself round on her 
stool, holding on by Austin's knee, as she faced her 
father. 

" There was a lady came to John Baxendale's f-ooms 
to-day, when I and Dobson were there, and she asked 
for Mr. Lewis Hunter. At least — it Avas the funniest 
thing, papa — .she saw Uncle Henry talking to John 
Baxendale, and she camu up and said he was Mr. 
Lewis, and asked where he lived. John IJaxendale 
said it was Mr. Henry Hunter, and she .said no, it was 
not Mr. Henry Hunter, it was Mr. Lewi.s. So then 
"we found out that .she had mistaken him for y<»u, and 
that it was you she wanted. Who was she, papa ? " 

" She — she — her business was with Henry," sj**^^^ 



102 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Mr. lluntur, in so confused, so startled a tone : not as 
if answering the child, but more as if defending him- 
self to any Avho might be around : that Austin looked 
up involuntarily. His face had gi'own angry and 
lowering, and he moved his position, so that his wife's 
gaze should not fall upon it. Austin's did, though. 

At that moment there was heard a knock and ring 
at the house-door, presumably the announcement of a 
visitor, Florence, much addicted to acting upon 
natural impulse, and thereby falling into constant hot 
water with her governess, who assured her nothing 
could be more unbecoming a young lady, quitted her 
stool and flew to the window. By dint of flattening 
her nose and crushing her curls against a corner of 
one of its panes, she contrived to obtain a partial 
view of the visitor. 

" Oh dear ! I hoped it was Uncle Bevary. Mamma's 
always better when he comes; he tells her she is not 
so ill as she fancies. Papa ! " 

"What ? " cried Mr. Hunter, (juickly. 

" I do believe it is that same lady who came to 
John Baxendale's. She is as tall as a house." 

Wlmt possessed Mr. Hunter? He started up; he 
sprung half-way across the room, hesitated, and glided 
l>ack again. Glided stealthily as it were ; and stealthily 
touching Austin Clay, motioned him to follow him. 
His hands were trembling ; and the dark frown, full 
cf embarrassment, was still upon his features. Mrs. 



TRACKED HOME. 103 

Hunter noticed nothing unusual ; the apartment was 
shaded in twiliglit, and she sat with her head turned 
to the fire. 

" Go to that woman, Clay ! " came forth in a 
whisper from Mr. Hunter's compressed lips, as he 
drew Austin outside the room. "I cannot see her. 
You go." 

" What am I to say ? " questioned Austin, feeling 
surprised and bewildered. 

" Anything ; anything. Only keep her from me." 

He turned back into the room as he spoke, and 
closed the door softly, for Miss Gwinn was already 
in the hall. The servant had said his master was at 
home, and was conducting her to the room where his 
master and mistress sat, supposing it was some friend 
come to pa}' them an hour's visit. Austin thouglit he 
heard Mr. ^Tunter slip the bolt of tlie ilining-rooin, as 
he walked forward to receive Miss (Jwinn. 

Austin's words were quick and sharp, arru.stin^ ilie 
servant's footsteps. " Not there, Mark ! Miss Gwiini," 
he courteously added, ])resenting him.self before her, 
" Mr. Hunter is unable to see you this evening.' 

" Who gave yoa authoiity to interfere, Austin 
Clay?" was tlie response, not spoken in a raviiiL,^ 
angry tone, but in one of cold, concentiated detrr- 
mination. "I demand an interview with Ja-wIs 
Hunter. That he is at home, I know, ihr I saw liiiu 
through the window, in the reflection of the fireliglit, 



104 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

as I stood on the steps ; and here I will remain until 
I obtain speech of him, be it unlil to-morrow morning, 
be it until days to come. Do you note my words, 
meddling boy ? I demand the interview ; I do not 
crave it : he best knows by what right." 

She sat deliberately down on one of the hall-chairs. 
Austin, desperately at a loss what to do, and seeing 
no means of getting rid of her except by foi'cible 
expulsion, knocked gently at the room-door again. 
Mr. Hunter drew it cautiously open to admit him ; 
then slipped the bolt, entwined his arm within 
Austin's, and drew him to the window. Mrs. Hunter's 
attention w^as absorbed by Florence, who was chatter- 
ing to her. 

" She has taken a seat in the hall, sir," lie whispered. 
" She says she will remain there until she sees you, 
though she should have to wait until the morning. I 
am sure she means it : stop there, she will. She says 
she demands the interview as a rifjlit." 

"No," said Air. Hunter, "she possesses no rijld. 
But — perhaps I had better see her, and get it over : 
otherwise she may make a disturbance. Tell Mark 
to show her into the drawing-room. Clay; and you 
stay hero and talk to Mrs. Himter." 

"What is the matter, that you are whispering? 
Does any one want you ? " interrupted Mrs. Hunter, 
whose attention was at length attracted. 

" I am telling Clay that people have no right to 



TRACKED HOME. 105 

come to my private house on business matters," was 
the reply given by Mr. Hunter. " However, as the 
person is here, I must see her, I suppose. Do not let 
us be interrupted, Louisa." 

" But what does she want ? — it was a lady, Florence 
said. Who is she ? " reiterated Mrs. Hunter. 

" It is a matter of business of Henry's. She ought 
to have gone to him." Mr. Hunter looked at his wife 
and at Austin as he spoke. The latter was leaving 
the room to do his bidding, and Miss Gwinn suffered 
herself to be conducted quietly to the drawing-room. 

A full hour did the interview last. The voices 
seemed occasionally to be raised in anger, so that the 
sound penetrated to their ears downstairs, from the 
room overhead. Mrs. Hunter grew impatient ; the tea 
waited on the table, and she wanted it. At length 
they were heard to descend, and to cross the hall. 

" James is showing her out himself," said Mrs. 
Hunter. "Will you tell him we are waiting tea, Mr. 
Clay ? " 

Austin stepped into the hall, and started when ho 
caught sight of the face of Mr. Hunter. He was 
ttirning back from closing the door on Mi.ss Gwinn. 
and the bright rays of the hall-lamp fell full upon his 
countenance. It was of gliastly whiteness; its ex- 
pression one living aspect of terror, of dread. He 
staggered, rather than walked, to a cliair, an<l sunk 
into it. Austin hastened to him. 



106 A LIFli'S SECRET. 

" Oh, sir, what is it ? You are ill ? " 

The strong man, the jti'uud master, calm hitherto 
in his native self-respect, was for the moment over- 
come. He leaned his forehead upon Austin's arm, 
hiding its pallor, and put up his finger for silence. 

"I have had a stab. Clay," he whispered. "Bear 
with me, lad, for a minute. I have had a cruel 
stab." 

Austin really did not know whether to take the 
words literally. " A stab ? " he hesitatingly repeated. 

" Ay ; here," touching his heart. " I wish I were 
dead. Clay. I wish I had died years ago ; or that she 
had died. Why was she permitted to live ? — to live 
to work me this awful wrong ? " he drcamil}- wailed. 
" An awful wrong to me and mine ! " 

" What is it ? " spoke Austin, upon impulse. " A 
wrong ? Who has done it ? " 

"She has. The woman now gone out. She has 
done it all." 

He rose, and appeared to be looking for his hat. 
" Mrs. Hunter is waiting tea, sir," said the amazed 
Austin. 

"Tea!" repeated Mr. Hunter, as if his brain were 
bewildered ; " I cannot go in again to-night ; I cannot 
see them. Make some excuse for me. Clay — any- 
thing. Why did that woman work me this crying 
wrong ? " 

He took his liat, opened the hall-door, and shut io 



TRACKED HOME. 107 

loudly after him, leaving Austin in wondering con- 
sternation. 

He returned to the dining-room, and said ^Ir. 
Hunter had been oLliged to go out on business ; ho 
did not know what else to say. Florence was sent to 
bed after tea, but Austin sat a short time longer with 
Mrs. Hunter. Something led back to the previous 
conversation, when Mrs. Hunter had been alluding to 
her state of health, and to some sorrow that was her 
daily portion. 

" What is it i " said Austin, in his impulsive manner. 

" The thouglit that I shall have to leave Florence 
without a mother." 

" Dear Mrs. Hunter, surely it is not so serious as 
that ! You may get better." 

" Yes ; I know I may. Dr. Bevary tells me that I 
shall. But, you see,' the very fear of it is liard to 
bear. Sometimes I think God is reconciling me to it 
by slow degrees." 

Later in the evening, as Austin was going home, 
he passed a piece of clear ground, to be let for building 
purposes, at the end of the scpiare. There, in its 
darkest corner, far back from the road, paccil u man 
as if in some mental agony, his hat carried in hi^ 
liands, and Ids head bared to the winds. Austin 
peered through the niglit with his quick siglit, and 
recognized Mr. Hunter. 



108 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER VII. 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 



Daffodil's Delight was in a state of commotion. It 
has often been remarked that there exists more real 
sympathy between the working classes, one for another, 
than amongst those of a higher grade ; and experience 
generally seems to bear it out. From one end of 
Daftbdil's Delight to the other, there ran just now a 
deep feeling of sorrow, of pity, of commiseration. 
Men made inquiries of each other as they passed in 
the street ; women congi-egated at their doors to talk, 
concern on their faces, a question on their lips — " How 
is she ? What does the doctor say ? " 

Yes ; the excitement had its rise in one cause 
alone — the increased illness of Mrs. Baxendale. The 
j)hysician had pronounced his opinion (little need to 
speak it, though, for the fact was only too apparent 
to all who used their eyes), and the news had gone 
forth to Daffodil's Delight — ]\Irs. Baxendale was past 
recovery ; was, in fact, dying ! 

The concern, universal as it was, showed itself in 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 109 

various ways. Visits and neighbourly calls were so 
incessant that the Shucks openly rebelled at the 
" tramping up and down through their living-room," 
by which route the Baxendale apartments could alone 
be gained. The neighbours came to help ; to nurse ; 
to shake up the bed and pillows; to prepare con- 
diments over the fire ; to condole ; and, above all, to 
gossip : with tears in their eyes and lamentation in 
their tones, and ominous shakes of the head, and 
uplifted hands ; but still, to gossip : that lies in human 
female nature. They brought offerings of savoury 
delicacies; or things that, in their ideas, stood for 
delicacies — dainties likely to tempt the sick. Mrs. 
Cheek made a pint jug of what she called "buttered 
beer," a miscellaneous compound of scalding-hot 
porter, gin, eggs, sugar, and spice. Mrs. Baxendale 
sipped a little ; but it did nr)t agi-ee with her fevered 
palate, and she declined it for the future, with 
" thanks, all the same," and Mrs. Cheek and a crony 
or two disi)0.sed of it themselves with great satisfac- 
tion. All this served to prove two things — that good 
'feeling ran high in Daffodil's Delight, and that means 
did not run low. 

Of all the visitors, the most effectual assistant was 
Mrs. Quale. She go.ssiped, it is true, or it had not 
been Mrs. Quale ; but she gave efficient help ; and the 
invalid was always glad to .sec her come in. wliich 
"ould not be .said witli roi'ai<l to all. Daffodil's 



110 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Delight was not wrong in the jiidgincnt it passed 
upon Mary Baxendalc — that she was a " poor creature." 
True ; poor as to being clever in a domestic point of 
view, and in attending upon the sick. In mind, in 
cultivation, in refinement, in gentleness, Mary Baxen- 
dalc beat Daffodil's Delight hollow ; she was also a 
beautiful seamstress j but in energy and capability 
Mary was sadly wanting. She was timid always — 
painfully timid in the sick-room; anxious to do for 
her mother all that was needed, but never knowing 
how to set about it. Mrs. Quale remedied this ; she 
did the really efHcient part; Mary gave love and 
gentleness ; and, between the two, Mrs. Baxendalo 
-vvas thankful and happy. 

John Baxendale, not a demonstrative man, was full 
of concern and grief. His had been a very happy 
home, free from domestic storms and clouds ; and to 
lose his wife was anything but a cheering prospect. 
His wages were good, and they had wanted for 
nothing, not even for peace. To such, when trouble 
comes, it seems hard to bear — it almost seems as if it 
came as a %vrong. 

"Just hold your tongue, John Baxendale," cried 
Mrs. Quale one day, upon hearing him express some- 
thing to this efl'ect. " Because you have never had 
no crosses, is it any reason that you never shall ? No. 
Crosses come to us all sometime in our lives, in one 
shape or other." 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. Ill 

" But it's a hard thing for it to come in this shape," 
retorted Baxendale, pointing to the bed, " I'm not 
repining or rebelling against what it pleases God to 
do ; but I can't sre the reason of it. Look at some of 
the other wives in Daffodil's Delight ; shrieking, 
raving trollops, turning their homes into a bear- 
garden with their tempers, and driving their husbands 
almost mad. If some of them were taken they'd never 
be missed ; just the contrar}'." 

" John," interposed Mrs. Baxendale, in her quiet 
voice, " when I am gone up there " — pointing with 
her finger to the blue October sky — "it may make 
you think more of the time when you must come 
also ; may hel[) you to be preparing for it, better than 
you have done." 

Mary lifted her wan face, glowing now with the 
excitement of the thought. " Father, that may be the 
end — the reason. I think that troubles are sent to 
us in mercy, not in anger." 

" Think ! " ejaculated Mrs. Quale, t<jssing back her 
head with a manner le.ss reverent than her words. 
"Before you shall have come to my age, girl, it's to 
be hoped you'll knoiu they are. Isn't it time for the 
medicine ? " she continued, seeing no other o|)cning 
for a reprimand just then. 

It was time for the medicine, and Mrs. Quale i)oured 
it out, raised the invalid from her pillow, and adminis- 
tered it. John Baxendale looked on. Like his 



112 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

ilaiightor Mai}', he was in these matters an incapable 
man.' 

" How long is it since Dr. Bevary was here ? " he 
askotl. 

" Let's see ? " responded Mrs. Quale, who liked to 
have most of the talking to herself, wherever she 
might be. "This is Friday. Tuesday, wasn't it, 
Mary ? Yes, he was here on Tuesday." 

" But why does he not come oftencr ? " cried John, 
in tones of resentment. " That's what I was wanting 
to ask about. When one is as ill as she is — in danger 
of dying — is it right that a doctor should never come 
a-near for three or four days ? " , 

" Oh, John ! a great physician like Dr. Bevary ! " 
remonstrated his wife. " It is so very good of him to 
come at all. And for nothing, too ! He as good as 
said to Mary he didn't mean to charge." 

" I can pay him ; I'm capable of paying him, I 
hope," spoke John Baxendale. " Who paid I wanted 
my wife to be attended out of charity ? " 

" It's not just that, father, I tliink," said Mary. 
" He comes more in a friendly way." 

" Friendly or not, it isn't come to tlie pass yet, that 
I can't pay a doctor," said John Baxendale. " Who 
has let it go abroad that I couldn't ? " 

Taking up his hat, he went out on the .spur of the 
moment, and bent his steps to Dr. Be vary 's. There 
ho was civil and humble enough, for John Baxendale 



MR. SHL^CK AT HOME. 113 

\vas courteous by nature. The doctor was at home, 
and saw him at once. 

" Listen, my good man," said Dr. Berary, when he 
had cauglit somewhat of liis errand. " If, by going 
round often, I could do any good to your wife, I 
should go. Twice a day , three times a day — by 
night, too, if necessary. But I cannot do her any 
good : had she a doctor over her bed constantly, he 
cuuld render no service. I step round now and tlien, 
because I see that it is a satisfaction to her, and to 
those about her ; not for any use I can be. I told you 
a week ago the end was not very far off, and that she 
would meet it calmly. She will be in no further pain 
— no worse than she is now." 

" I am able to pay you, sir." 

" That is not the question. If you paid me a 
guinea every time I came round, I should visit her no 
more frequently than I do." 

" And, if you please, sir, I'd rather pay you," con- 
tinued the man. " I'm sure I don't grudge it ; and it 
goes against the grain to have it said that John 
Baxcndalu's wife is attended out of charity. We 
English workmen, sir, are indojiendent, and proud of 
being so." 

" Very good," said Dr. Bevary, " 1 should be sorry 
to see the day come wlien English workmen lo.st their 
independence. As to 'charity,' we will talk u bit 
about that. Look here, Baxcndule," the doctor added, 

A Lite's Sccrat- S 



lU A LIFE'S SECRET. 

laying his liaiid upon his shoulder, in his kind and 
familiar way, "you and I can speak reasonably to- 
trether, as man to man. We both have to work for 
our living — you with the hands, I chiefly with the 
Iwad — .so, in that, we are equal. I go twice a-week 
to see your wife ; I have told you why it is useless to 
go oftener. When patients come to me, they pay me 
a guinea, and I see them twice for it, which is equiva- 
lent to half-a-guinea a visit ; but, when I go to patients 
at their own houses, my fee is a guinea each time. 
Now, would it seem to you a neighbourly act that I 
should take two guineas weekly from your wages ? — 
quite as much, or more, than you gain. What does 
my going round cost me ? A few minutes' time ; a 
gossip Avith Mrs. Quale, touching the doings of 
Daffodil's Delight, and a groan at those thriftless 
Shucks, in their pigsty of a room. That is the })lain 
statement of facts; and I .should like to know what 
there is in it that need put your English spirit up. 
Charit}'! We miglit call it by that name, John 
Baxcndale, if I were the guinea each time out of 
pocket, through medicines or other things furnished 
to you." 

John Baxcndale smiled; but he looked only half 
convinced. 

" Tush, man ! " said the doctor ; " 1 may be asking 
you to do me some friendly service, one of these days, 
and then, you know, we should be quits. Eh, John ? " 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 115 

John Baxendalc half put out his hand, and the 
doctor shook it. 

"I think I understand now, sir; and I thank you 
heartily for what you have said. I only wish you 
could do some good to the wife." 

" I wish I could, Baxendale," he replied, throwing 
a kindly glance after the man as he was moving 
away. " I shan't bring an action against you in the 
county court for these unpaid fees, Baxendale, for it 
wouldn't stand," called out the doctor. " I never was 
called in to see your wife — I went of my own accord, 
and have so continued to go, and shall so continue. 
Good-day." 

As John Baxendale was descending the steps of the 
house-door, he encountered Mrs. Hunter. She stopped 
him to inquire after liis wife. 

" Getting weaker daily, ma'am, thank you. The 
doctor has just told me again that there's no liope." 

"I am truly sorry to liear it," .said Mrs. Hunter. 
" I will call in and see her. I did intend to call 
liefore, but .something or other has caused me to put 
it off." 

John Baxendale touched Ids hat, un<l departed. 
Mrs. Hunter went in to her brother. 

" Oh, is it you, Loui.'^a ? " he exclaiuicd. " A visit 
IVom you is somewhat of a rarity. Are you feeling 
worse ? " 

" Rather better, I think, tliaii usual, I have just 



116 A LIFE'S SFX'RET. 

met Jolin Baxcndale," continued Mrs. Hunter, sitting 
down, and untyini; licr bonnet-strings. " He says 
tlicre is no hope for his Avit'c. Poor woman ! I wish it 
liad been different. Many a worse woman could have 
been better spared." 

" Ah," said the doctor, " if folks were taken 
according to our notions of whom nii<rht be best 
spared, what a world this would be ! Where's Miss 
Florence ? " 

" I did not bring her out with me, Robert. I came 
round to say a word to you about James," resumed 
Mre. Hunter, her voice insensibly lowering itself to a 
tone of confidence. " Something is the matter with 
him, and I cannot imagine what it is." 

" Been eating too many cucumbers again, no doubt," 
cried the doctor. " He I'sUl go in at that cross-grained 
vegetable, let it be in season, or out of it." 

" Eating ! " returned Mrs. Hunter, " I wish he did 
eat. For at least a fortnight — more, I think — he has 
not eaten enough to support a bird. That he is ill is 
evident to all — must be evident; but when I ask him 
what is the matter, he persists in it that he is quite 
well ; that I am fanciful . seems annoyed, in short, 
that I should allude to it. Has he been here to 
consult you ? " 

" No," replied Dr. Bevary ; " this is the tiist I have 
licard of it. How docs he seem ? What are his 
Mmptoms ?" 



MR. SIIL'CK AT HOME. 117 

"It appears to me/' said Mrs. Hunter, almost in 
a -whisper, " that the malady is more on the mind. 
There is no palpable disorder. He is restless, nervous, 
agitated ; so restless at night, that he has now taken 
to sleep in a room apart from mine — not to disturb 
me, he saj's. I fear — I fear he may have been 
attacked with some dangerous internal malady, that 
he is concealing. His father, you know, died of " 

" Pooh 1 Nonsense ! You are indeed becomii.- 
fanciful, Louisa," interrupted the doctor. " Old Mr. 
Hunter died of an unusual disorder, I admit; but, if 
the symptoms of such appeared in either James or 
Henry, they would come galloping to me in hot haste, 
asking if my skill could suggest a remedy. It is no 
' inward malady,' depend upon it. He has been 
smoking too much : or going in at the cucumbers." 

"Robert, it is something far more serious than that," 
quietly rejoined Mrs. Hunter. 

" When did you first notice him to be ill ? " 

" It is, I say, about a fortnight ago. One evening, 
there came a stranger to our house, a lady, and she 
would see him. He did not want to see lier: he sent 
young Clay to hei-, who happened to be with us; but 
she insisted upon seeing James. They were closeted 
together a long while before she left; "Und then James 
went out — on business, Mr. ("lay said." 

"Well?" cried Dr. Bevary. "What has the lady 
to do with it ? " 



118 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" I am not sure that she has anything to do with it 
Florence toM an incomprehensible story about the 
lady's having gone into Baxendalc's that afternoon, 
after seeing her uncle Henry in the street and mis- 
taking him for James. A Miss — what was the name ? 
— Gwinn, I think." 

Dr. Bcvary, who hajipened to liave a small glass 
»)hial in his hand, let it fall to the ground : whether 
oy inadvertence, or that the words startled him, he 
best knew. " Well ? " was all he repeated, after he 
had gathered up the pieces in his hand. 

" I waited up till twelve o'clock, and James never 
came in. I heard him let himself in afterwards with 
his latch-key, and come up into the dressing-room. 
I called out to know where he had been, it is so 
unusual for him to stay out, and he said ho was much 
occupied, and that I was to go to sleep, for he ha<l 
some writing to do. But, Robert, instead of writing, 
he was pacing the house all night, out of one room 
into another; and in the morning — oh, I wish you 
could have seen him ! — he looked wild, wan, haggard, 
as one does who has risen out of a long illness ; and 
I am positive he had been weeping. From that 
time I have noticed the change I tell you of. Ho 
seems like one 'going into his grave. But, whether 
the illness i^ upon the body or the mind, I know 
not." 

Dr. Bevary appeared intent upon putting together 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME, 119 

the pieces of his phial, making them fit into each 
other. 

" It will all come right, Louisa ; don't fret yourself : 
something must have gone cross in his business. I'll 
call in at the ofiice and see him." 

" Do not say that I have spoken to you. He seems 
to have quite a nervous dread of its being observed 
that anything is wrong with him ; has spoken sharply, 
not in anger, but in anguish, when I have pressed the 
question." 

" As if the lady could have anything to do with 
it ! " exclaimed Dr. Bevary, in a tone of satire. 

" I do not suppose she had. I only mentioned the 
circumstances because it is since that evening that he 
has changed. You can see what you think of him, 
and tell me afterwards." 

The answer was only a nod ; and Mrs. Hunter went 
out. Dr. Bevary remained in a brown study. His 
sers'ant came in with an account that patient after 
patient was waiting for him, but the doctor replied 
by a repelling gesture, and the man ditl not again 
dare to intrude. Perplexity and pain sat upon his 
brow; and, when at last he did rouse himself, ho 
raised his hands, and gave utterance to words that 
soundeil very like a prayer : " I i)ray Heaven it may 
not bo so ! It would kill Louisa." 

The pale, delicate face of Mrs. Hunter was at that 
moment bending over the invalid in lier bi-d. In lier 



120 A r.IFE'S SECRET. 

soft grey silk dress and light shawl, her simple straw 
honnet with its white ribbons, she looked just the 
riirht sort of visitor for a sick-chamber; and her voice 
was sweet and her manner gentle. 

" No, ma'am, don't speak of hope to me," murmured 
Mrs. Baxendale. " I know that there is none left, and 
I am quits reconciled to die. I have been an ailing 
woman for years, dear lady ; and it is wonderful how 
those that are so get to look kindly upon death, if they 
can but presume to hope their soul is safe, rather than 
with dread. Though I dare not say as much yet to 
my poor husband." 

"I have long been ailing, too," .softly replied Mrs. 
Hunter. " I am rarely free from pain, and I know 
that I shall never be healthy and strong again. But 
still — I do fear it would give me pain to die, were the 
fiat to come forth." 

" Never fear, dear lady," cried the invalid, her eyes 
brifrhtenin;:c. "Before the fiat does come, be assured 
that God will have reconciled you to it. Ah, ma'am, 
what matters it, after all ? It is a journey we miifft 
take ; and, when once we are prepared, it seems but 
the setting off a little sooner or a little later. I got 
Mary to read me the burial-service on Sunday : I was 
always fond of it ; but I am past reading now. In one 
part, thanks are given to God for that he has been 
pleased to deliver the dead out of the miseries of this 
sinful world. Ma'am, if He did not remove us to » 



mi SHUCK AT HOME. 121 

better and a happier home, would the living be directed 
to give thanks for our departure from this ? " 

"A spirit ripe for heaven/' thought Mrs. Hunter, 
when she took lici* leave. 

It was Mrs. Quale who piloted her through the room 
of the Shucks. Of all scenes of disorder and dis- 
comfort, about the worst reigned there. Sam had been 
— you must excuse the inelegance of the phrase, but it 
was much in vogue in Daftbdil's Delight — " on the 
loose " again for a couple of days. He sat sprawling 
across the hearth, a pipe in his mouth, and a pot of 
porter at liis feet. The wife was crying with her hair 
down; the children were quarrelling in tatters; the 
dirt in the place, as Mrs. Quale expressed it, stood on 
end ; and Mrs. Hunter wondered how people could 
bear to live .so. 

" Now, Sam Shuck, don't you .sec who is a-standing 
in your presence ? " sharply cried ISIrs. Quale. 

Sam, his back to the staircase-door, really had not 
scon. He threw his pipe into the grate, started up, 
and pulled his hair to Mrs. Hunter in a very humble 
fashion. In his hurry ho turned over a small child, 
and the contents of the pewter pot upon it. The child 
roared ; the wife took it up and shook its clothes in 
Sam's face, restraining her tongue till tlie lady .should 
be gone; and Mrs. Hunter .steppetl into the garden out 
of the vieUe — glad to get there ; Sam following hor in 
a spirit of politeness. 



122 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" How is it you are not at work to-day, Shuck i " 
she askcil. 

"I am going to-morrow — I shall go for certain, 
ma'am." 

" You know. Shuck, I never do interfere with Mr. 
Tluntor's men," said Mrs. Hunter. " I consider that 
intelligent workmen, as you are, ought to be above any 
advice that I could offer. But I cannot help saying 
how sad it is that»you should waste your time. Were 
you not discharged a little while ago, and taken on 
again under a specific promise, made by you to Mr. 
Henry Hunter, that you would be diligent in future ? " 

" I am diligent," grumbled Sam. " But — why, 
ma'am — a chap must take holiday now and then. 
'Tain't in human nature to be always having the 
shoulder at the wheel." 

" Well, pray bo cautious," .said Mrs. Hunter. " If 
you offend again, and get discharged, I know they will 
not be so ready to take you back. Remember your 
little children, and be steady for their sakes." 

Sam touched his hair, went indoors to his pipe, to 
his wife's tongue, and to despatch a child to get the 
pewter pot re{)lenishcd. 



( 123 ) 



CHAPTER VIII. 

FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 

Mrs. Hunter, turning out of Mr. Shuck's gate, stepped 
inside Mrs. Quale's, who was astonishing her with the 
shortcomings of the Shucks, and prophesying that their 
destiny woukl be the workhouse, when Austin Clay 
came forth. He had been home to dinner, and was 
now going back to the yard. Mr.s. Hunter said good- 
morning to her talkative friend, and walked away 
by Austin's side — Mrs. Baxendale, Sam Shuck, and 
Daffodil's Delight generally, forming themes of con- 
verse. Austin raised his hat to her when tliey came 
to the gates of the yard. 

"No, I am not about to part; I am going in with 
you," said Mrs. Hunter. " I want to speak just a woid 
to my husband, if he is at liberty. V'il! y<iu liiid liim 
for me ? " 

"He has been in his private room all the morning, 
and is probably there still," said Austin. "Do you 
know where Mr. Hunter is?" he imiuirtd of a mao 
whom they met. 



124 A I. IKE'S SECRET. 

"In his room, sir," was the reply, as the man 
touched his cap to Mrs. Hunter. 

Austin led the way down the passage, and knocktMl 
at the door, Mrs. Hunter followin'x him. There was 
no answer ; and believing, in consequence, that it was 
empty, ho opened it. 

Two gentlemen stood within it, near a table, paper 
and pens and ink before them, and what looked 
like a cheque-book. They must have been deeply 
absorbed not to have heard the knock. One was Mr. 
Hunter; the other — Austin recognized him — Gwinn, 
the lawyer, of Ketterford. " I will not sign it ! " Mr. 
Hunter was exclaiming, with passionate vehemence. 
" Five thousand pounds ' it would cripple me for life." 

" Then you know the alternative. 1 go this moment 
and 

" ^Irs. Hunter wishes to speak to you, sir," interposed 
Au.stin, drowning the words and speaking loudly. The 
gentlemen turned sharply round : and when Mr. 
Hunter caught sight of his wife, the red anger of his 
face turned to a deathlike pallor. Lawyer Gwinn 
nodded familiarly to Austin. 

" How are 3'ou, Clay ? Getting on, I hope. W/io is 
this person, may I ask ? '' 

"This lady is Mrs. Hunter," haughtily replied Austin, 
after a pause, surprised that Mr. Hunter did not take 
up the words — the offensive manner in which they were 
spoken — the insulting look that accompanied them. 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS! 125 

But Mr. Hunter did not appear in a state to take 
anything up just tlien. 

Gwinn bent his body to the ground. " I beg the 
lady's pardon. I had no idea she was Mrs. Hunter." 

But so ultra-courteous were tlie tones, so low the 
bow, that Austin Clay's cheeks burnt at the covert 
irony. 

"James, you are ill," said Mrs. Hunter, advancing 
in her quiet, composed manner, but taking no notice 
whatever of the stranger. " Can I get anything for 
you ? Shall we send for Dr. Bevary ? " 

*' No, don't do that ; it is going off. You will oblige 
me by leaving us," he whispered to her. " I am very 
busy." 

" You seem too ill for business," she rejoined. " Can 
you not put it off for an hour ? Rest might be of 
service to you." 

"No, madam, the business cannot be put off," .spoke 
up Lawyer Gwinn. 

And down he sat in a chair, with a determined air 
of con.sciou3 jjower — ^just as his sister had sat herself 
down, a fortnight before, in *Mr. Hunter's hall. 

Mrs. Hunter quitted the room at once, leaving her 
husband and the stranger in it. Au.stin followed her. 
Her face wore a puzzled, vexed look, a.s .she turned it 
upon Austin. " Who i.s that person ? " she asked. 
" 11 i.s manner to me appeared to be strangely in- 
solent." 



126 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

An instinct, for which Austin perhaps could not have 
accounted liad he tried, cause him to suppress the fact 
that it was the brother of the Miss Gwinn wlio 
liad raised a commotion at Mr. Hunter's house, llo 
answered tliat he had not seen the person at the office 
previously, his tone being as careless a one as he could 
assume. And Mrs. Hunter, who was of the least sus- 
picious nature possible, let it pass. Her mind, too, was 
filled with the thought of her husband's suffering 
state. 

"Does Mr. Hunter appear to you to be ill?" she 
asked of Austin, somewhat abruptly. 

" He looked so, I think." 

"Not now; I am not alluding to the present 
moment," she rejoined. " Have you noticed before that 
he does not seem well ? " 

" Yes," replied Austin ; " this week or two past." 

Tlierc was a brief pause. 

" Mr. Clay," she resumed, in a quiet, kind voice, "my 
health, as you arc aware, is not good, and any sort of 
uneasiness tries me much. I am going to a.sk you a 
confidential question. I would not jiut it to many, 
and the asking it of you proves that my esteem for 
you is great. That Mr. Hunter is ill, there is no doubt; 
but whether mentally or bodil}' I am unable to dis- 
cover. To me he observes a most unusual reticence, 
his object probably Ijeing to spare me pain ; but I can 
battle better with a known evil than with an un- 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS! 127 

known. Tell nie, if you can, Avhether any vexation 
has arisen in business matters ? " 

" Not that I am aware of," promptly replied Austin. 
" I feel sure that nothing is wrong in that quarter." 

" Then it is as I auspcctetl, and he must be suffering 
from some illness that he is concealing." 

She wished Austin good-morning. He saw her out 
of the gate, and then proceeded to the room he usually 
occupied when engaged indoors. Presently he heard 
Mr. Hunter and his visitor come forth, and saw the 
latter pass the window. Mr. Hunter came into the 
room. 

" Is Mrs. Hunter gone ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Do you know what she wanted ? " 

" I do not think it was anything particular. She 
said she should like to say u word to you, if you were 
disengaged." 

Mr. Hunter did not speak immediately. Austin was 
making out certain estimates, and his master looked 
over his shoulder. Not to look ; his mind was evidently 
all pre-occupied. 

"Did Mrs. Hunter inquire who it was that was 
with me ? " he ])resently said. 

"She ini^uired, sir. I did not say. I UM her I 
had not seen the person here before." 

" Yoio knew { " in (piick, sliurp, accents. 

" Oh yes." 



128 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Tlien, why did you not tell her ? Wliat was your 
motive for concealing it ? " 

The imiuiry was uttered in a tone that could not 
be construed as proceeding from any emotion but 
tliat of fear. A flush came into Austin's ingenuous 
face. 

" I beg your pardon, sir, I never wish to be other- 
wise than open. But, as you had previously desired 
me not to speak of the lady who came to your house 
that night, I did not know but the same wish might 
apply to the visit of to-day." 

" True, true," murmured Mr. Hunter ; " T do not wish 
this visit of the man's spoken of Never mention his 
name, especially to Mrs. Hunter. I suppose he did 
not impose upon me," added he, with a poor attempt 
at a forced smile : " it u'os Gwinn, of Ketterford, was 
it not? " 

" Certainly," said Austin, feeling surprised. " Did 
you not know him previously, sir ? " 

"Never. And I wish I had not known him now." 
" If — if — will you forgive my saying, sir, that, should 
you have any transaction with him, touching money 
miatters, it is necessary to be wary. Many a one has 
had cause to rue getting into the clutches of Lawyer 
Gwinn." 

A deep sigh burst from Mr. Hunter. He had 
turned from Austin. The latter spoke again in his 
ardent sympathy. 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS 129 

" Sir, is there any way in which I can serve you ? — 
(imj way ? You have only to cominan<l me." 

" No, no, Clay. I fell into that raan'.s clutches — as 
you have aptly termed it — years ago, and the penalty 
nnist be paid. There is no help for it." 

" Not knowing him, sir ? " 

" Not knowing him. And not knowing that I owed 
it, as I certainly did not know, until a Aveek or two 
ago. I no more suspected that — that I wa.s indebted 
there, than that I was indebted to you." 

Mr. Hunter had grown strangely confused and 
agitated, and the dew was rising on his livid face. 
He made a hollow attempt to laugh it off, and seemed 
to shun the gaze of his clerk. 

" This comes of the freaks ot young men," ho 
ob-served, facing Austin after a pause, and speaking 
volubly. " Austin Clay, I will give you a piece of 
advice. Never put your hand to a bill. You may 
think it an innocent bit of paper, which can cost you 
at most but the sum that is marked upon it: but it 
may come back to you in after-years, and you nnist 
purchase it with thousands of pounds. Have nothing 
to do with bills in any way; they will bo a thorn in 
your side." 

"So, it is a mono}' ali'air!" thought Austin. "I 
nii<rht have known it was nothing else, where (Jwinu 
was concerned. Here's Dr. Be vary comin^,^ in,' sir," h^ 
lidded 4lMud. 

A l.ilfV sctni ^ 



130 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

The physician was inside the room ere the worcls 
had left Atistin's lips. Mr. Hunter had seized npon a 
stray }ilan, and seemed bent upon its examination. 

"Rather a keen-looking customer, that, whom 
I met at your gate," began the doctor. " AVho 
was it ? " 

" Keen-looking customer ? " repeated Mr. Hunter. 

"A fellow dressed in black, with a squint and a 
white neckerchief. An ill-favoured fellow, whoever 
he i.s." 

"How should I know about him?" replied Mr. 
Hunter, carelessly. "Somebody after the men, I 
suppose." 

Tjut Austin Clay felt that ^[r. Hunter did know; 
that the descrijition could only apply to Gwinn, of 
Kctterford. Dr. Bevary entwined his arm within his 
brother-in-law's, and led him from the room. 

"James, do you want doctoring?" he inquired, as 
they entered the one just vacated by Lawyer Gwinn. 

" No, I don't. What do you mean ? " 

" If you don't, you belie your looks ; that's all. Can 
you honestly atHrm to mc that you are in robust 
liealth ? " 

" I am in good health. There is nothing the matter 
with me." 

"Then there's sonu'thing else in the wind. What's 
the trouble ? " 

A flush rose to the face of Mr. Hunter " I cah in 



IIVK THOUSAND POUNDS I 18i 

no trouble that you can relieve ; I am quite well. I 
repeat that I do not understand your meaning." 

The doctor gazed at him keenly, and his tone 
changed to one of solemn earnestness. 

" James, I suspect that you are in trouble. Now, 
I do not wish to pry into it unnecessarily; but I 
would remind you of the sound wisdom that lies in 
the good old proverb : ' In the multitude of counsel- 
lors there is safety.' " 

" And if there is ? " returned Mr. Hunter, 

" If you will confide the trouble to me, I will do 
M'hat I can to help you out of it — ivhatever if may 
he — to advise with you as to what is best to be done, 
I am your wife's brother; could 3'ou have a truer 
friend ? " 

" You are very kind, Bevary. I am in no danger. 
When I am, I will let you know." 

The tone — one of playful mockery — grated on the 
car of Dr. Bevary. 

"Is it as.suiiu'd to hide what lie dare not betray?" 
thought he, 

Mr. Hunter cut the matter short by crossing the 
yard to the time-keeper's ofKco ; and Dr. lievary went 
out talking to himself . "A wilful man must have his 
way." 

Austin Clay sat up late that night, reading one uf 
the ([uarterly review.*! ; he lot the time slip by till tlie 
clock .struck twelve. Mr and Mrs. Uualt- luid been in 



132 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

bed some time ; Avheii notliinj^ was wanted for JFr. 
Clay, Mrs. Quale was rigid in retirinj^ at ton. Early 
to bed, and early to rise, was a maxim she was fond 
of, both in precept and i)ractice. The striking of tho 
chiirch-elock aroused him ; he closed the book, left it 
on the table, pulled aside the crimson curtain, and 
opened the window to look out at the niji^ht before 
going into his chamber. 

A still, balmy night. The stars shone in the 
heavens, and Daftbdil's Delight, for aught that could 
be heard or seen just then, seemed almost as peaceful 
as tluy. Austin leaned from tho window ; his thoughts 
ran m^t upon the stars or upon tho peaceful scene 
around, but upon the curious ti'ouble which seemed 
to be overshadowing ^Ir. Hunter. " Five thousand 
pounds ' " His ears had caught distinctly tho ominous 
sum. Cuuld ho liave fallen into Lawyer Gwinn's 
" clutches " to that extent ? 

There was much in it that Austin could not fathom. 
Mr, Hunter had hinted at "bills;" Miss Gwinn had 
spoken of the "breaking-up of her happy home;" 
two calamities apparently distinct and apart from 
each other. And how was it that they were in 
itrnorance of his name, his existence, his 

A startling interruption came to Austin's thought.s. 
Mr.s. Shuck's door was pulled hastily open, and some 
one panting with excitement, uttering faint, sobbing 
cries, came running down their garden into Pet*^r 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS? l33 

Qualc's. It was Mary Baxendale. She knocked 
sharply at the door with nei-vous quickness. 

" What is it, Mary ? " asked Austin. 

She had not seen him ; but, of course, the words 
caused her to look up. " Oh ! sir," the tears streaming 
tVuiii her eyes as she spoke, "would you please call 
Mrs. Quale, and ask her to step in ? Mother's on the 
wing." 

" I'll call her. Mary ! " for she was speeding back 
again — " can I get any other help for you ? If I can 
be of use, step back and tell nic." 

Sam Shuck came out of his hou.se as Austin spoke, 
and went flying up Daffodil's Delight. He had gone 
for Dr. Bevary. The doctor had desired to be called, 
should there be any sadden change. Of course, he 
did not mean the change of death. He could be of no 
use in that; but how could they discriminate*? 

Mrs. Quale Mas dressed and in the sick-cliainbcr 
with all .speed. Dr. Devary was not long liefcirt' he 
followed her. Neighbours on cither side put their 
hi -ads out. 

Ten minutes at the most, and I):-, lievary was out 
again. Austin was then leaning over Peter Quale's 
gate, lie had been in no urgent mood for bed befon*, 
and this little excitement, though it did not innne- 
fliately concern liim, afforded an excuse for not g"iiig 
to it 

" How is .she, sir {" 



134 A LIFE'S SECRF:T. 

" Is it you ? " responded Dr. Bevary. " She is gone. 
I thought it would be sudden at the last." 

" Poor thing ! " ejaculated Austin. 

" Poor thing ? Ay, that's what we arc all apt to 
say when our friends die. But there is little cause 
when the change has been prepared for, the spirit 
made ripe for heaven. She's gone to a world where 
there's neither sickness nor pain." 

Austin made no reply. The doctor spoke again 
after a pause. 

" Clay — to go from a solemn subject to one that — 
tliiit may, however, prove not less solemn in the end 
— you heard me mention a stranger I met at the 
gates of the yard to-day, and ^Ir. Hunter would not 
take my question. Was it Gwinn, of Ketterford ? " 

The doctor had spoken in a changed, low tone, 
laying his hand, in his earnestness, on Austin's 
shoulder. Austin paused. He did not know whether 
he ought to answer. 

" You need not hesitate," said the doctor, divining 
his scruples. " I can understand tliat ^Ir. Hunter 
may have forbidden you to mention it, and that you 
would be faithful to him. Don't speak ; your very 
hesitation has proved it to me. Good-night, my 
young fiiend; we would both .serve him, if we only 
knew how." 

Au.stin watched him away, and then went indoors, 
for Daffodil's Delight began to be astir, and to collect 



ilVE THOUSAND POIWDS! 136 

itself around lilin, Sam Shuck liaving assisted in 
spreading the news touching Mis. Baxendale. Datfo- 
dil's Delight thought nothing of leaving its bed, and 
issuing forth in shawls and pantaloons upon any 
lising emergency, regarding such interludes of dis- 
turbed rest as socially exciting and agreeable. 



136 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 



CHAPTER IX. 

Till-: SLI'AIJATION OF HUNTEK AND IIL'NTEU. 

Austin Clay sat at liis desk at Hunter and Hunter's, 
sorting the morning letters, which little matter of 
employment formed part of his duties. It was tlic 
morning subsequent to the commotion in Daffodil's 
Delight. His thoughts were running more on that 
than on the letters, when the postmark " Ketterford " 
on two of them caught his eye. 

The one was addressed to himself, the other to 
" Mr. Lewis Hunter," and the handwriting of both 
was the same. Disposing of the rest of the letters as 
usual, placing those for the Messrs. Hunter in their 
room, ready for their arrival, and sorting out any 
others there might be for the hands employed in the 
firm, according to their addresses, he proceeded to 
open his own. 

To the very end of it Austin read; and tlien, and 
not till then, he began to su.spect that it could not be 
meant for him. ]Su name whatever was mentioned 
in the letter; it began abruptly, and it ended abruptly; 



THE SEPARATION OF IltNTER AND IIUNTKR. W 

not .so much as " Sir," or " Dear Sir," Avas it coin- 
liliinented with, and it was simply signed "A. (J." 
Jic read it a second time, and then its awful meaning 
Hashed upon hiin, and a red Hush rose to his brow 
and settled there, as if burnt into it with a branding- 
iron. He had become possessed of a dangerous 
secret. 

There was no doubt that the letter was written by 
Miss Gwinn to Mr. Hunter. By some extraordinary 
mischance, she had misdirected it. Possibly the letter 
now l}ing on Mr. Hunter's desk, might bo for Austin. 
Thouijli, what couM slie bo writing; about to him ? 

He .sat down. He was quite overcome with tlie 
tevelation; it was, indeed, of a terrible nature, and 
he would have given much not to have become 
cognizant of it. "Bills!" "Money!" So, that had 
been Mi". Hunter's excuse for the mystery! No 
wonder he .sought to turn suspicion into any channel 
but the real one. 

Austin was p(jring over the letter as one in a niglit- 
mare, when Mr. Hunter interrupted him. He crushe<l 
it into his pocket witli all tlii^ aspect of a guilty man ; 
any one might have taken liim in his confusion to be 
so. Not for liimself was lie confused, but he fcare<l 
lest Mr. Hunter .should discover the letter. Although 
certainly written for Mr. Hunter, Austin did not duio 
to hand it to liim, for it wouM nrvci- do to jtt 
Mr. Hunter know that hu posse&sed the .secivt. Mr, 



138 A I.TFE'S SECHET. 

Hunter liad coine in, liolding out the other letter from 
Kettcrford. 

"This letter is for you, Mr. Clay. It lias l>eeii 
addressed to me by mistake, I conclude." 

Austin took it, and glanced his eyes over it. It 
contained a few abrupt lines ; a smaller note, sealed, 
was inside it. 

" My brother is in London, Austin Clay. 1 have 
reason to think he "will be calling upon the Me.ssi-s. 
Hunter. Will you watch for him, an<l give hini the 
enclosed note ? Had he told mc where he should 
put up in town, I should have had no occasion to 
trouble you. 

"A. GWINN." 

Austin did not lift his eyes to Mr. Hunter's in his 
usual candid, open manner. He could not bear to 
look him in the face ; lie feared lest his master might 
read in liis the dreadful truth. 

" AVluit am I to do, sir i " he a.sked. " Watch for 
Gwinn, and give him the note ? " 

"Do this with them," .said Mr. Hunter. 

Striking a wax match, he held both Austin's note 
and the sealed one over the flame until they were 
consumed. 

" You could not fulfd the request, if you wished, for 
the man went back to Kettcrford last ni<;ht." 



THE SEPARATION OP IlUNTEll AND IIUNTKH. 139 

He said no more. He went away again, and Austin 
lighted another match, and burnt the letter he had 
crushed into his pocket, thankful, so for, that it had 
escaped Mr, Hunter. 

Trouble came. Ere many days had elapsed, there 
was dissension in the house of Hunter and Hunter. 
Thoroughly united and cordial the brothers had 
always been ; but now a cause of dispute arose, and 
it seemed that it could not be arranged. Mr. Hunter 
had drawn out five thousand pounds from the bank, 
and refused to state for what, except that it was for a 
" private purpose." The business had been a gradually 
increasing one, and nearly all the money possessed by 
both was invested in it; .so much as was not actually 
out, lay in the bank in their joint names, " Hunter 
and Hunter." Each possessed a private account, but 
nothing like sufficient to meet a chcfjue for five 
thousand pounds. Words ran high between them, 
and the sound penetrated to ears outside their prJNate 
room. 

His face pale, his lips compres.sed, his tones subdued, 
James Hunter sat at his desk, his eyes falling on a 
ledger he was not occupied with, and liis hand 
partially .shading his face. Mr. Henry, more excited, 
giving way more freely to his anger, i)aced the carpet, 
occasionally stopping before tlie desk and before liis 
brother. 

"It is the most unaccountable thing in the world," 



140 A LIFE'S SECREt. 

lie reiterated, " that you sliould refuse to say what it 
lias hcuii applied to. Draw out secretly so formidable 
a sum as that, and not account for it ! It is monstrous." 

" Ifenry, I have told you all I can tell you," replied 
Mr. Hunter, concealing his countenance more than 
ever. " An old debt was brought up against me, and 
1 was forced to satisfy it." 

Mr. Henry Hunter curled his lip. 

" A debt to that amount ! Were you mad ? " 

" I did not — know — I — had — contracted it," stam- 
mered Mr. Hunter, very nearly losing his self-possession. 
" At least, I thought it had been pai<l. Youth's errors 
do come home to us sometimes in later life." 

" Not to the tune of live thou.sand pounds," retorted 
Mr. Henry Hunter. "It will almost cripple the 
business; you know it will. It is next door to ruin." 

" Nonsense, Henry ! The loss of five thousand 
)»ounds will neither cripple the business nor bring 
ruin. It will be my own lo.ss : not yours." 

" How on earth could you think of giving it away ? 
Five thousand pounds!" 

"1 could n(»t lielj) myself. Had I refused to pay 
it " 

" Well ? " fur Mr. Hunter had stopped in emltarra.ss- 
mcnt. 

" I .should have been compelled to do so. There. 
Talking of it will not mend it." 

Mr. Heniy Hunter teok a few turn.s, and then 



THE SEPARATION OF HUNTER AND lirXTI-II. HI 

wheeled round sharply. " Perhaps there are other 
claims for 'youth's follies ' to come behind it ] " 

The words seemed to arouse ^Ir. Hunter. Not to 
anger; but to what looked very like fear — almost to 
an a<lmission that it might be so. 

" Were any such further claim to come, I would nut 
satisfy it," he cried, wiping his face. " No, I would 
not; I would go into exile first." 

"We must part," said Mr, Henry Hunter, the ex- 
pression of his brother's face quite startling him. 
*' There is no alternative. I cannot risk the future of 
my wife and children." 

" If it must be so, it must," was all the reply given. 

J' Tell me the truth, James," urged ^Mr. Henry, in 
more conciliatory tones. " I don't want to part. Tell 
me all, and let me be the judge. Surely it can't bo 
anything .so very dreadful. You didn't set fire to 
your neighbour's house, I suppose ? " 

■' I never thought the claim could come upon me. 
That is all I can tell you." 

"Then we part," decisively returned Mr. Iltiny 
Hunter. 

" Yes; it may be better. If I am to go to )nin, it is 
of no u.se to drag you down into it." 

"If you are to go to ruin!" echoed Mr. lK;my, 
regarding his brother attentively. "James! is tint 
an admission that othrr mysterious claims may really 
follow thid one { " 



142 ■ A LIFE'S SKCRKT. 

"No, I think they will not. But we had better 
part. Onl}' let the cansc^ of our separation bo kept 
from the workl." 

" I should be clever to betray the cause, seeing that 
you leave me in ignorance of what it may be," 
answered Mr. Henry Hunter, who was feeling vexed, 
puzzled, and veiy angry. 

"I mean — let no shadow of the truth get abroad. 
The business is large enough for two firms, and we 
have agreed to carry it on apart. Let that be the 
plea." 

" You take it coolly, James." 

A strange expression — a v:rung expression — passed 
over the face of James Hunter. " I cannot help mys(jlf, 
Henry. The five thousand pounds are gone, and of 
course it is right that I should bear the loss alone — 
or any other loss it may bring in its train." 

" But why not impart the facts to me ? " 

'* No. It could not possibly do good ; and it might 
make matters infinitely worse. One advantage our 
separation will have ; there is a great deal of money 
owing to us from different quarters, and this will call 
it in." 

" Or I don't see how you would carry anything on 
fc»r your part, minus jour five thousand pounds," 
retoi-ted Mr. Heniy, in a spirit of satire. 

" Will you grant me a favour, Henry ? " 

"That depends upon what it may be." 



TIIK SEPAILVTION UF IIUXTEK AND IIUNTi:i;. 113 

"Let the real grounds of our separation— this 
miserable aftair that has led to it — l»e equally a secret 
from your wife, as from the world. I should not ask 
it without an urgent reason." 

'' Don't you mean to tell Louisa ? " 

" No. The matter is one entirely my own ; I do 
not wish to talk of it even to my wife. Will you 
give mc the promise ? " 

" Very well. If it be of the consequence you seem 
to intimate. I cannot fathom you, James." 

"Let us apply ourselves now to the ways and 
means of the dissolution. That, at any rate, may be 
amicable." 

It was quite evident that he fully declined further 
allusion to the subject. And Mr. Henry Hunter 
obtained no bettor elucidation, then or later. 

It fell upon the wor?d like a thunderbolt — that is, 
the world connected witli Hunter and Hunter. TJiey 
separate ? so flourishing a firm as that ? The world 
at fh-st refused to believe it; but the world soon found 
it wan true. 

Mr. Hunter retain^'<l the yard where the l)usineRs 
was at present cai lied on. Mr. Ibiiiy liunttn- f.niiiil 
other promi.scs to suit him; not lai- oil"; a little more 
to the west. Considerably siu-^jrist-d were ^frs. 
Hunter and Mrs. Henry Hunter ; but the same 
l)lausible excuse was given to tliem ; and they were 
left in ignorance of the true cairse. 



144 A r.IFK'S SKCRET. 

" Will you remain with me ?" pointeiUy asked Mr. 
Hunter of Austin Clay. " I particularly wish it." 

"As you and Mr. Henry may decide, sir," was the 
reply given. " It is not for me to choose," 

" We could both do with you, I believe. I had 
better talk it over with him." 

" That will be the best plan, sir." 

" What do you part for ? " abruptly inquired Dr. 
Bevary one day of the two brothers, coming into the 
counting-house and catching them together. 

Mr. Henry raised his eyebrows. Mr. Hunter sp<jke 
volubly. 

"The business is getting too large. It will bo 
better divided." 

" Moonshine ! " cried the doctor, quietly. " That's 
what you have been cramming your wives with ; it 
won't do for me. When a concern grows unwieldy, a 
man takes a partner to help him on with it ; yoii are 
separating. There's many a firm larger than yours. 
Do you remember the proverb of the bundle of sticks?" 

But neither Dr. Bevary nor any one else got at a 
better reason than that for the measure. The dis- 
solution of partnership took place : it was duly 
gazetted, and the old firm became two. Austin 
remained with Mr. Hunter, and he was the only 
living being who gave a guess, or who could give a 
gue«s at the real cause of separation — the drawing 
out of that five thousand pounds. 



THE SEPARATION OF HUNTER AND HUNTER. 145 

And yet — it was not the drawing out of that first 
five thousand pounds, tliat finally decided Mr. Henry 
Hunter to enforce the step, so much as the thought 
that other thousands might perhaps be following it. 
He could not divest his mind of the iear. 



A Ultit Secrrt. 10 



PART THE SECOND. 



CHAPTER I. 

A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 

For several year.s after the separation of Hunter and 
Hunter, things went on smoothly ; at least there was 
no event so marked that we need pause to trace it. 
Each had a flourishing business, though Mr. Hunter 
luul sonic ditficulty in warding oft' embarrassment in 
the linancial department : a fact which was well 
known to Austin Clay, who was now confidential 
manager — liead of all, under Mr. Hunter. 

He, Austin Clay, was approaching towards thirty 
years of age. He enjoyed a handsome .salary, and 
was putting by money yearly. He still remained at 
Peter Quale's, though liis i)Osition would have 
warranted a far superior style of living. Not that it 
CouM have brought him more respect: of that he 
cnjoycil a full share, Inith from nuister and mcu. 
Clever, energetic, firm and friendly, he was thoroughly 
fitted for liis post — was liked and esteemed. Ihit for 
him, Mr. Hunter's business might not have been what 
it wa.'^, and Mr. Hunter knew it. lie \\i\^ a broktii- 



150 A LITE'S SECRET. 

spirited man, little capable now of devoting energy to 
anything. The years, in their ])rogress, had terribly 
altered James Hunter. 

A hot evening in Dattbdil's Delight ; and Datlbdil's 
Delight was making it a busy one. Uninterrupted 
prosperity is sometimes nearly allied to danger ; or, 
rather, danger may grow out of it. Prosperity begets 
independence, and independence often begets assump- 
tion — very often, a wrong and selfish view of sur- 
rounding things. If any workmen l)ad enjoyed of 
late years (it may be said) unlimited prosperity, they 
were those connected with the building trade. There- 
fore, being so flourishing, it struck some of their body, 
who in a degree gave laws to the rest, that the best 
thing they could do was to make themselves more 
flourishing still. As a preliminary, they began to 
agitate for an increase of wages : this was to be 
accomplished by reducing the hours of labour, the 
proposition being to work nine hours i)er day instead 
of ten. They said nothing about relinquishing the 
wages of the extra hour : they would be paid for ten 
hours and work nine. The proposition was first put 
by the men of a leading metropolitan firm to their 
principals, and, failing to obtain it, they threatened 
to strike. It was this question that was just now 
at^itating Daffodil's Delight. 

In the front-room of one of the houses tliat intnided 
very closely upon the gutter, and to which 30U must 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. l5l 

ascend by steps, there might be read in the window, 
inscribed on a piece of white paper, the following 
notice: "The Misses Dunn's, Milliner and Din3=.3- 
niakers. Ladies own nieteriels made up." The com- 
[•osition of the a^cJie was that of the two Miss 
Dunns conjointly, who prided themselves upon being 
elegant scholars. A twelvemonth's apprenticeship 
had initiated them into the mysteries of dressmaking ; 
millinery ha<l come to them, as Mark Tapley would 
say, spontaneous, or by dint of practice. They had 
set up for themselves in their father's house, and 
could boast of a fair share of the patronage of 
Dafibdil's Delight. Showy damsels were they, with 
good-humoured, turned-up noses, and light hair; 
much given to gadding and gossipping, and fonder of 
dressing themselves than of getting liome at the 
appointed Imur tlic dresses of their customers. 

On the above evening, they sat in their room, an 
tipper oni.', stitching away. A gown was in progress 
fur Mrs. Quale, who often boasted that she could do 
any w<jrk in the world, except make; Ik r own gowns, 
it had Tx'cn in progress for two A\c('ks, and tliat 
lady had at length come up in a temper, as Mi.ss 
.Jemima Duini expressed it, and had (lomanded it to 
l>o returned, done or undone. They, with mucli 
deprecation, protested it should be Ikuik- the lirst 
tiling in tin- niurning, and went to woik. I-'onr 
or live visitors, girls of their own age, wen' per- 



152 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

forming tlie part of lookers-on, and much laughter 
prevailed. 

" I say," cried out Martha "White — a pleasant-look- 
ing girl, who had perched herself on the edge of a 
piece of furniture, which appeared to be a low chest 
of drawers by day, and turned itself into a bed at 
night — "Mary Baxendale was crying yesterday, be- 
cause of the strike ; saying, it would be bad for all 
of us, if it came. Ain't she a soft ? " 

" Baxendale's again it, too," exclaimed Miss Ryan, 
Pat Ryan's eldest trouble. " Father says he don't 
tliink Baxendale '11 go in for it at all." 

" Mary Baxendale's just one of them timid things 
as is afraid of their own shadders," cried Mary Ann 
Dunn. "If she saw a cow a-coming at the other end 
of the street, she'd turn tail and run. Jemimer, what- 
ever are you at ? Tlic sleeves is to be in ])laits, not 
gathers." 

" She do look ill, though, docs Mary Baxendale," 
said Jemima, after some attention to the sleeve in 
hand. " It's my belief she'll never live to see 
Christmas ; she's going the way her mother went. 
Won't it be prime when the men get ten hours' pay 
for nine hours' work ? I shaL think about getting 
married then." 

" You must find somebody to have you first," quoth 
Grace Darby. " You have not got a sweetheart yet." 

Mi.s.s Jemima tossed lier head. "I needn't to wait 



A ^lEETIXG OP TEE WORKMEN. 153 

long for that. The chaps be as plentiful as sprats in 
winter. All you have got to do is to pick and 
choose." 

" What's that ? " interrupted Mrs. Dunn, darting 
into the room, -with her sharp tongue and her dirty 
fine cap. " What's that as you're talking about, 
nii.ss ? " 

"We are a-ialking of the strike," responded Jemima, 
with a covert glance to the rest. " Martha White and 
Judy Ryan saj's the Baxendales won't go in for it." 

" Not go in for it ? What idiots they must be ! " 
returned Mrs. Dunn, the attractive subject completely 
diverting her attention fiom Miss Jemima and her 
remarks. " Ain't nine hours a-day enough for the 
men to be at work ? I can tell the Baxendales what 
— when we have got the nine hours all straight and 
sure, we shall next demand eight. 'Taint free-born 
Englishers as is going to be put upon. It'll be glorious 
tiuics, girls, won't it ? We shall get a taste o' fowls 
and salmon, maybe, for dinner then 1 " 

"My father says he docs not tliink the masters will 
come-to, if the men do strike," ob.served Grace Darby. 

" Of coui-sc they won't — till they are forced," re- 
torted Mrs. Dunn, in a spirit of satire. " But that's 
just what they are a-going to be. Duti't you be a 
fool, Grace Darby ! " 

Lotty Cheek rushed in, a girl with a tongue almost 
as voluble as Mi-s. Dunn's, and rou>di li;iii- the colour 



154 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

of a tow-rope. " What d'ye think ? " cried she, breath- 
lessly. " There's a-going to be a meeting of the men 
to-night in the big room of tho Bricklayers' Arms. 
They are a-filing in now. I think it must be about 
the strike." 

" D'ye suppose it would be about anything else ? " 
retorted Mrs. Dunn, " I'd like to be one of 'em ! I'd 
hold out for the day's work of eight hours, instead of 
nine, I would. So 'ud they, if they was men." 

Mrs. Dunn's speech was concluded to an empty 
room. All the girls had llown dow'n into the street, 
leaving Mrs. Quale's gown in closer contact with the 
dusty floor than \vas altogether to its advantage. 

The agitation in the trade had hitherto been chietiy 
smouldering in an under-current : now, it was rising 
to the surface. Lotty Cheek's inference was right ; 
the meeting of this evening had reference to the 
strike. It had been hastily arranged in the day; was 
quite an informal soi't of afiair, and conlined to the 
operatives of Mr. Hunter. 

Not in a workman's jacket, but in a Inown coat 
dangling to his heels, with a slit down the back and 
ventilating holes for the elbows, first entered he who 
had been chiefly instrumental in calling the meeting. 
It was Mr. Saumel Shuck ; better known, you may 
remember, as Slippery Sam. Somehow, Sam and 
prosperity could not contrive to pull together in tke 
same boat. He was one of those who like to live on 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 155 

the fat of the land, but are too lazy to work for tlieir 
share of it. And how Sain had contrived to exist 
until now, and keep himself and his large family out 
of the workhouse, was a marvel to all. In his fits of 
repentance, he would manage to get in again at one 
or other of the yards of the Messrs. Hunter ; but they 
were growing tired of him. 

The room at the Bricklayers' Arms was tolcraltly 
commodious, and Sam took up a conspicuous position 
in it. 

"Well," began Sam, when the company had as- 
sembled, and were furnislied with pipes and pewter 
pots, " you have heard that that firm won't accept the 
reduction in the hours of labour, so the men have 
determined on a strike. Now, I have got a question 
to put to you. Is there most power in one man, or 
in a few dozens of men ? " 

Some laughed, and said, " In the dozen.s." 

" Very good," glibly went on Sam, whose tongue 
was smoother than oil, and who was gifted with a 
certain sort of oratory and some learning whon Ip' 
chose to exercise it. "Tlien, the measure I wish to 
urge upon you is, make common cause with tliose 
men. Wc are not all obliged to suike at the Hanie 
time; it will be better not; but by degrees. Ltt 
every linn in London strike, eacli at its appointed 
time," he continu<'<l, laising liis voice to vehemence. 
"We must .stand uji fur ourselves; for uur rights; 



156 A r.IFE'S SECRfiT. 

for our 'wivc'S and diiklren. By making common 
cause together, we shall bowl out tlic masters, and 
bring them to terms." 

" Hooroar ! " put in Pat Ryan. 

" Hooroar ! " echoed a few more. 

An aged man, Abel "White's father, usually called 
old White, wlio was past work, and liad a seat at his 
son's chimney corner, leaned forward and spoke, his 
voice tremulous, but distinct. " Samuel Shuck, did 
you ever know strikes do any good, either to the men 
or the mastei's ? Friends," he added, turning his 
venerable head around, " I am in my eightieth year : 
and I picked up some exjicrience whilst them eighty 
years was passing. Strikes have ruined some mastei's 
in means; but tlicy have ruined men wholesale, in 
means, in body, and in soul." 

"Hold there," cried Sam Shuck, who had not 
brooked the interioiption patiently. "Just tell us, old 
White, before you go on, whether coercion answers for 
British workmen ? " 

" It does not," replied the old man, lifting his quiet 
voice iji firmness. " But perhaps you will tell mo in 
your turn, Sam Shuck, whether it's likely to answer 
for masters ? " 

" It has answered for them," returned Sam, in tones 
of irony. "I luive heard of back strikes, where the 
masters were coerced and coerced, till the men got all 
they stood out for." 



A MKETING OF TIIH WORKMEN. 157 

" And so brought down ruin on their own lieads," 
returned tlie old man, shaking his. "Di<l you ever 
hear of a lock-out, Shuck ? " 

"Ay, ay," interposed quiet, respectable Robert 
Darby. " Did^ou ever hear of that, Slippery Sam ? " 

Slippery Sain growled. " Let the masters lock-out 
if they dare ! Let 'em. The men would hold out to 
the death." 

"And death it will be, with .some of us, if the 
strike comes, and lasts. I came down here to-niijht, 
on my son's arm, just for your good, my friends, not 
for mine. At your age, I thought as some of you do ; 
but I have learnt experience now. I can't last long, 
any way ; and it's little matter to me whether famine 
from a strike be my end, or " 

" Famine," derisively retorted Slippery Sam. 

"Yes, famine," was tlie quiet answer. "Strikes 
never yet bnjught any tiling Imt misery in tlie end. 
Let me urge upon you all not to be led away. My 
voice is but a feeble one; but I think the Lord is 
sometimes pleased to .show out things clearly to the 
aged, almost as with a gift of ))r()plu'cy ; and 1 could 
only como and })C.seech 3'ou to keep upon the straight- 
forrard patli. Don't have anything to do with a 
strike; keep it away from you at arni's-lengtli, as you 
would keep away tlie e\il one." 

"What's the good of listfiiing to liim r' cried 
Slippery Sam, in anger. " He i.^ in his dotage." 



158 A LIFE'S SKCRKT. 

"Will you listen to iiu^ tln-u?" spoke up Peter 
Quale ; " I am not in mint;. I <li<ln't intend to come 
here, as may be guessed ; l)ut when I found so many of 
you bending your steps this way to listen to Slippery 
Sam, I thought it time to change my iflind, and come 
and tell you what / thought of strikes." 

" Ymc ! " rudely replied Slippery Sam. " A fellow 
like you, always in full Avork, earning the biggest 
wages, is sure not to favour strikes. You can't be 
much better off than you are." 

" That admission of yours is worth something, 
Slippery Sam, if there's any here have the sense to 
sec it," nodded Peter Quale. " Gooil workmen, on full 
wages, dont favour strikes. I have rose up to what 
I am by sticking to my work patiently, and getting 
on step by step. It's open to every living man to get 
on as I have done, if ho have got skill and pluck to 
work. But if I had done as you do, Sam, gone in for 
labour one day and for play two, and for diinking, 
and strikes, and rebellion, because money, which I 
was too lazy to work for didn't drop from the skies 
into my hands, then I should just have been where 
y(ju be." 

" Is it right to keep a man grinding and sweating 
Ids life out for ton hours a-day ? " retorted Sam. " The 
masters would be as well off if we worked nine, and 
the surplus men would find employment." 

" It isn't much of your life that you sweat out, Sam 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 159 

Shuck/' itj./m'<l Peter Quale, with a cougli that 
especially provoke<l his antagonist. " And, as to the 
masters being as well off, you had better ask thcui 
about that. Perhaps they'd tell you that to pay ten 
hours' wages for nine hours' work would be the hour's 
wage dead loss to their pockets," 

" Are you rascal enough to go in for the masters ? " 
demanded Sam, in a fiery heat. " Wiio'd do that, but 
a traitor ? " 

*' I go in for m3'sclf, Sam," equably responded Peter 
Quale. " I know on Avhich side my bread's buttered. 
No .skilful workman, possessed of prudent thought 
and judgment, ever yet went bliiidfi)ld int<i a .'strike. 
At least, not many such." 

Up rose Robert Darby, " I'd just say a word, if I 
can get my meaning out, but I'm not cute with the 
tongue. It seems to me, mates, that it would l)e a 
great boon if we could obtain the granting of the nine 
hours' movement ; and perhaps in the end it would 
not affect the mastei-s, for they'd get it out of the 
l)ublic. I'd agitato for this in a peaceful way, in the 
shape of reason and argument, and do my best in that 
way to get it. But I'd not likf, as Peter Quale says, 
to plunge blindfold into a strike. ' 

" I look at it in this light, Darl)y," sai<l Peter Quale, 
"and it seems to me it's tin; only liglit as '11 answer 
the purpose. Things in tliis world are estimated by 
comparison. There ain't nothing large nur small in 



160 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

itself. I may say, this cliaii's big : well, so it is, if 
you match it by that there bit of a stool in tho 
chimbley corner ; but it's very small if you juit it by 
the side of an omnibus, or of one of the sheds in our 
yard. Now, if you compare our wages with those of 
workmen in most other trades, they are large. Look 
at a farm-labourer, poor fellow, with his ten shillings 
(more or less) a-week, hardly keeping body and soul 
together. Look at what a man earns in the maltinor 
districts in the country; fifteen shillings and his 
beer, is reckoned good wages. Look at a policeman, 
with his pound a-week. Look at a postman. Look 
at " 

" Look at ourselves," intemperately interrupted Jim 
Dunn. " What's other folks to us ? We work hard, 
and we ought to be paid according." 

" So 1 think we are," said Peter Quale. " Thirty- 
three shillings is vot bad wages, and :t is only a 
delusion to say it is. Neither is ten houi-s a-day an 
unfair or oppressive time to work. I'd be as glad as 
anybody to have the hour took off, if it could be done 
pleasantly ; but I am not going to put myself out of 
work and into trouble to stand out for it. It's a thing 
that I am convinced the masters never will give ; and 
if Pollock's men strike for it, they'll do it against their 
own interests " 

Hisses, and murmurs of disapprobation from various 
pp,rts of the room, interrupted Peter Quale. 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 161 

" You'd better wait and understand, afore you begin 
to hiss," phleginatically recommended Peter Quale^ 
when the noise had subsided. " I say it will be 
against their interests to strike, because, I think, if 
they stop on strike for twelve months, they'll be no 
nearer getting their end. I may be wrong, but that's 
my opinion. There's always two sides to a question 
— our own, and the opposite one ; and the great fault 
in most folks is, that they look only at their own side, 
and it causes them to see things in a partial view. I 
have looked as fair as I can at our own side, trying to 
put away my l)ias for it ; and I have put myself in 
tluniglit on the master's side, asking myself, wliat 
would 1 do, were I one of them. Thus I have tried 
to judge between them and us, and the conclusion I 
have drawed is, that they won't give in." 

" The masters have been brought to jjrant demands 
more unreasonable than this," rejoined Sam Shuck. 
"If you know anything about back strikes, you must 
know that. Quale." 

"And that's one of the reasons why I argue they 
won't grant this," said Peter. " If they go on grant- 
ing and granting, they may get asking themselves 
where the demands '11 stop." 

" Let us go back to 1S38," spoke up old White again, 
and the man's ago and venerable asjiect caused liirn to 
be listened to with respect. " I was then working in 
Manchester, and belonged to the Trades' Union ; a 

A Life's .Secret. 11 



162 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

powerful Union as ever Avas I'uriaod. In our strength, 
we thoufi-lit Ave should like a thinir or two altered, 
and we made a formal demand upon the master 
builders, requiring them to discontinue the erection of 
buildings on sub-contracts. The masters fell in with 
it. You'll understand, friends," he broke oft' to say, 
" that, looking at things now, and looking at em then, 
is just aa if I saw 'em in two opposite aspects. Next, 
we gave out a set of various rules for the masters, 
and required them to abide by such — about making 
of the wages equal; the number of ai»prentices they 
should take ; the machinery they should or should not 
use, and other things. Well, the masters gave us that 
also, and it put us all cock-a-hoop, and we went on to 
dictate to 'em more and more. If they — the masters 
— broke any of our rules, wo levied fines on 'em, and 
made 'em pay uj> ; we ordered them before us at our 
meetings, found fault with 'em, conmianded 'em to 
obey us, to take on such men as we pointed out, and 
to turn oft* others ; in short, forced 'cm to do as wc 
chose. People miglit liave thought that we was the 
master and they the operatives. Pretty well, that, 
wasn't it ? " 

The room nodded acquiescence. Slippery Sam 
snapped his fingers in delight. 

" The worst was, it did not last," resumed the old 
man. " Like too many other folks emboldened with 
success, we wa.sn't cpntent to let well alone, but went 



A MEETIXa OF THE WOllKMEN. ir,3 

on a bit too far. The masters took up their own 
defence at last ; and the wonder to mo now, looking 
back, is, that they didn't do it before. They formed 
themselves into a Union, and passed a i-esolve to 
employ no man unless he signed a pledge not to 
belong to a Trades' Union. Then we all turned out. 
Six months the strike was on, and the buildings was 
at a standstill, and us out of work." 

" Were wages bad at that time ? " inquired Robert 
Darby. 

" No. The irood workmen among us luul been 
earning in the summer thirty-five shillings a-week ; 
and the bricklayers had just had a rise of three 
shillings. We was just fools : that's my opinion of it 
now. Awful misery we were reduced to. Every 
stick we had went to the pawn-shop ; our wives was 
skin and bone, our children was iji rags ; and some of 
us just laid our heads down on the stones, clammed to 
death." 

"What was the trade in otiier places altout, that it 
didn't help you ? " indignantly demanded Sam Shuck. 

" They did help us. Money to the tune of eighteen 
thousand pounds came to us ; but wc was a huge 
body — many mouths to feed, and the strike was pro- 
long('(l. We had to come-to at last, for the masters 
wouldn't; and we voted our combination a nuisance, 
and went humbly to 'em, like dogs with their tails 
between their legs, and craved to bo tuok on again 



1G4 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

upon their own terras. But we couldn't get took back ; 
not all of us : the masters had learnt a lesson. They 
had got machinery to work, and had collected work- 
)non from other parts, so that we was not wanted. 
And that's all the good the strike brought to us ! I 
came away on the tramp with my family, and got 
work in London after a deal of struggle and privation : 
and I made a vow never willingly to belong to a 
strike again." 

" Do you see where the fault lay in tliat case ^ — the 
blame ? — the whole gist of the evil ? " 

The question came from a gentleman who had 
entered tlic njom as old White was speaking. The 
men would have risen to salute him, but he signed to 
them to be still and cause no interruption — a tall, 
noble man, with calm, self-reliant countenance. 

" It lay with the mastere," he resumed, no one 
replying to him. " Had those Manchester masters 
resisted the first demand of their men — a demand 
made in the insolence of power, not in need — and 
allowed them fully to understand that they were, and 
would be, masters, we should, I believe, have heard 
less of strikes .since, than we have done. I never 
think of those Manchester masters but my blood boils. 
When a jirincipal suffers hirasulf to be dictated to by 
his men, he is no longer a master, or worthy of the 
name." 

" Had you been one of them, and not complied, you 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN 105 

might have come to ruiu, sir," cried Robert Darby. 
^' There's a deal to be said on both sides." 

" Ruin ! " was the answer. " I never would have 
conceded an inch, though I had known that I must 
end my days in the workhouse through not doing it." 

"Of course, sir, you'd stand up for the masters, 
being hand in glove Avitli 'em, and likely to be a 
master yourself," grumbled Sam Shuck, a touch of 
irony in his tone. 

" I should stand up for which ever side I deemed in 
the right, whether it was the masters' or the men's," 
was the emphatic answer. " Is it well — is it in 
accordance with the fitness of things, that a master 
should be under the control of his uun\ '. I ask it of 
your common sense." 

" No." It was readily acknowledged. 

" Those Manchester masters and those Manchester 
operatives were u|)<)ii a par as ivgarils sliaim' and 
blame." 

"Sir! Shame and Idaiiie V 

" The}' were u\)on a par as regards shame and 
blame," was the decisive repetition; "and I make no 
doubt that lx)th ecjually deemed themselves to have 
been so, when they found their senses. The masters' 
senses came to them: the men were brought to 
theirs." 

" You speak strongly, sir." 

" Pecauf^e I feel strongly. When 1 become a niaster, 



1G6 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

I shall, if I know anything of myself, have my men's 
interest at heart ; Ltit none of them shall ever presume 
to dictate to me. If a master cannot exercise his 
own authority in tii-in self-reliance, let him <,ave up 
business." 

" Have masters a right to oppress us, sir ? — to grind 
lis down ? — to work us into our coffins ? " cried Sam 
Shuck. 

The gentleman raised his ej'ebrows, and a half smile 
crossed his lips. " Since when have you been oppressed, 
and ground down into your coffins ? " 

Some of the men laughed — at Sam's oily tongue. 

"If 3'ou are — if you have any complaint of that 
sort to make, let me hear it now, and I will convey it 

to Mr. Hunter. He is ever ready, you know, to 

Wliat do 3-ou say. Shuck ? The nine hours' concession 
is all you want ? If you can get the masters to give 
you ten hours' pay for nine hours' work, so much the 
better for you. / would not: but it is no affiiir of 
mine. To bo paid what 3'ou honestly earn, be it five 
pounds per week or be it one, is only justice; but to 
be paid fur what you don't earn, is the opposite. I 
think, too, that the equalization of wages is a mis- 
taken system, quite wrong in principle : one which 
can bring only discontent in the long run. Let mo 
repeat that with emphasis — the equalization of wage.s, 
should it ever take place, can bring only discontent in 
the lon«^ rim." 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 167 

There was a pause. No one spoke, and the speaker 
resumed — 

" I conehide you have met here to discu.ss this 
affitation at the Messrs. Pollocks' ? " 

" Pollocks' men are a-going to strike," said Slippery- 
Sam. 

" Oh, they are, are they ? " returned 'the gentleman, 
some mockery in his tones. " I hope they may find 
it to their benefit. I don't know what the Messrs. 
Pollock may do in the matter; but I know what I 
should do." 

" You'd hold out to the last against the men ? " 

" I should ; to the last and the last : were it for ten 
years to come. Force a measure upon me! coerce 
me!" he reiterated, drawing his fine form to its full 
height, while the red flush mantled to his cheeks, 
" No, my men, I am not made of that yielding stuff. 
Only let mo be persuaded that my judgment is right, 
and no body of mon on earth should force me to act 
against it." 

The speaker was Austin Clay, as I dare .say you 
liavc already guessed. He had not gone to the meet- 
ing to interru))t it, or to take part in it, but in search 
of Poter Quale. Hearing from Mrs. Quale that lur 
husband was at the l^ricklayers' Arms— a rare occur- 
rence, for Peter was not ono who favoun>d puljlic- 
house-s — Austin went thither in search of liim, and .so 
found himseli' in the midst of the mcftiuLr. His 



ir,8 A UFK'K SECRET. 

business with Peter related to cortain orders lie 
required to give for the eaily morning. Once thcrCj 
however, the temptation to have his say was too 
gi-eat to be resisted. That over, he went out, signing 
to the man to follow him. 

" What are those men about to rush into, Quale? " 
he demanded, when his own matter was over. 

"All, what indeed?" returned the man. "If they 
do get led into a strike, they'll repent it, some of 
them." 

" You arc not one of the malcontents, then ? " 

" I ? " retorted Peter, utter scorn in his tone. " No, 
sir. There's a proverb which I learnt years ago from 
au old book as was lent me, and I've not forgotten it, 
sir — 'Let well alone.' But you must not think all 
the men you saw sitting there be discontented 
agitators, Mr. Clay. It's only Shuck and a few of 
that stamp. The rest 1m' as steady and cautious as 
I am." 

" If they don't get led away," replied Austin Clay, 
and his voice betrayed a doubtful tone. " Slipi)ery 
Sam, in spite of his loose qualifications, is a ring- 
leader more persuasive than prudent. Hark 1 he is at 
it again, hammer and tongs. Are you going back to 
them ? " 

" No, sir. I shall go home now." 

" We will walk together, then," observed Austin. 
" Atterwards I am going on to Mr. Hunter's." 



( ica ) 



CHAPTER n. 

CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 

Austin Clay was not mistaken. Rid of Peter Quale, 
who wjLs a worse enemy of Sam's schemes than even 
old White, Sam had it nearly his own waj', and went 
at it " hammer and tongs." He poured his eloquent 
words into the men's ears — and Sam, as you have 
heard, really did possess the gift of eloquence : of a 
rough and rude sort : but that tells well with the 
class now gathered rouml him. He brought forth 
argument upon argunu-nt, fallacious as they were 
j)lausible; he told the men it depended upon thrvi, 
whether the ])O0n they were standing out for should 
bo accorded, not upon the luusters. N(;t that Sam 
called it a boon; he s])oke of it as a r'i<iht. Let tlnni 
only be finn and true to theuiselves, he saiil, and the 
masters must give in : there was no help for it, they 
would have no other resource. Sam linally coneluded 
V)y demanding, with fierce looks all round, whether 
they were men, or whether tin y were slaves, and the 
men i^uswered, with a cheer an<l a shout, that liritoui* 



170 A LIFE'S SEPRET. 

never sliouUl be slaves: and tlio meeting broke up hi 
excitement and ^dorious spirits, and went home elated, 
some -Nvitli the anticipation of tlie fine time that was 
dawning for tliem, others with having consumed a 
little too much half-and-haU" 

Slippery Sam reeled away to Ids house. A dozen 
or so attended him, listening to his oratory, which 
was continued still : though not exactly to the 
gratification of Daft'odirs Delight, who were hushing 
their unruly babies to sleep, or striving to get to 
sleep themselves. Much Sam cared whom he dis- 
turbed ! He went along, flingintj his arms and his 
words at random — inflannnatory words, carr3dng 
poisoned shafts that told. If some one came down 
upon you or upon me, telling us that, with a little 
cxection on our part, we sliould inevitably drop into 
ten thousand a-year, and showing plausible cause for 
the same, should we turn a deaf ear? The men 
shook hands individually with Slippery Sam, and 
left hnn propped aganist his own door; for Sam, with 
all deference be it spoken, was a little overcome him- 
self — with the talking, of course. 

Sam's better-half greeted him with a shrill tongue : 
.she and Mrs ])unn might be jmired in that resj)ect : 
and Sam's children, some in the be<l in the corner, some 
sitting up, greeted him witli a slnill cry also, clamour- 
ing for a very common-place article, indeed — "some 
bread ! ' Sam's family seemed inconveniently to 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 171 

increase ; for the less there appeared to bo to welcome 
them with, the surer and faster they arrived. Sam 
could number thirteen now ; but several of the elder 
ones were out in the world " doing for themselves " 
— getting on, or starving, as it miglit happen to be. 

"You old sot! you have been at that drinking-can 
again," were Mrs. Sam's words of salutation; and I 
wisli I could soften them down to refinement for polite 
ear ; but if you are to have the truth, you must take 
them as they were spoken. 

" Drinking-can ! " echoed Sam, who was in too high 
glee to lose his temper, " never mind the driuking-can, 
missis : my fortian's made. I drawed together that 
meeting, as I telled ye I should," he added, discarding 
his scholarly eloquence for the familiar home phrase- 
ology, '"'and they come to it, every man jack on 'em, 
save thin-skinned Baxendale upstairs. Never was 
such a full meeting knowed in Dafibdil's Delitrht," 

" Who cares for the meeting ! " irascibly responded 
Mrs. Sam. " What we wants is, some'at to fill our 
insides witli. Don't come bothering home here about 
a meeting, when the children be a-starving. If you'd 
work more and talk less, it 'ud become ye better." 

" I got the ear of the meeting," said Sam, braving 
the reproof with a provoking wink. " A despleablti 
set our men is, at Kunter's, a-huiii<li tiiiiniiiig on like 
slaves for ever, taking their paltry wnges and making 
no stir. Dut I've put tlu' bi-;ui'I among 'em at last, 



172 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

and sent 'em home all on fire, to dream of short work 
and good pay. Quale, he come, and put in his spoko 
again' it ; and that wretched old skeleton of a White, 
what's been cheating the grave this ten year, he come, 
and put in his ; and Mr. Austin Clay, he must thrust 
his nose among us, and talk treason to the men : l>ut I 
think my tongue have circumvented the lot. If it 
haven't, my name's not Sam Shuck." 

" If you and your circumventions and your tongue 
was all at the bottom of the Tiiames, 'twouldn't be no 
loss, for all the good they does above it," sobbed Mrs. 
Shuck, whose anger generally ended in tears. " Here's 
me and the children a-clamming for want o' bread, and 
you can waste your time over a idle good-for-nothing 
meeting ! Ain't you ashamed, not to work as other 
men do ? " 

"Bread!" loftily returned Sam, with the air of a 
Idni;, "'ti.sn't bread I shall soon be furnishing; for vou 
and the children : it's nuitton chops. ^ly fortian's 
made, I say " 

" Yah ! " retorted Mrs. Sam. " It have l)een made 
fcjity times in the last ten year, to listen to you. 
What good has ever come of the boast ? I'd shut up 
my mouth if I couldn't talk sense." 

Sam nodde<l his head oracularly, and entered upon 
an explanation. But for the fact of his being a little 
" overcome " — whatever may have been its cause — he 
would have been more guarded. " Tve had overtures,'- 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 173 

he said, bendinfj forward his liead and loweriiifi his 
voice, "and them overtures, which I accepted, ^vill be 
the making of you and of me. Work ! " he exclaimed, 
throwing his arms gracefully from him with a re- 
pelling gesture, "I've dune with work now; I'm 
superior to it ; I'm exalted far above that lowering 
sort of toil. The leaders among the London Trade 
Union have recognized eloquence, ma'am, let me tell 
you ; and they've made me one of their picked body — 
appointed me agitator to the firms of Hunter. ' You 
get the meeting together, and prime 'em with the best 
of your eloquence, and excite 'em to recognize and 
agitate for their own rights, and you shall have your 
appointment, and a good round weekly salary.' Well, 
Mrs. S., I did it. I got the men together, and I hare 
primed 'em, and some of 'em's a-busting to go off, and 
all I've got to do from henceforth is to keep 'em up to 
the mark, by means of that tongue wliich you are so 
fond of disparaging, and to live like a gentleman. 
There's a triflin<; instalment of the first week's 
money." 

Sam threw a sovereign on the table. Mrs. Shuck, 
with a grunt of <lisi)aragement still, darted furwanl to 
seize upon it through her tears. The children, uttering 
a wild shriek of wonder, delight, and disbelief, l)orn of 
incipient famine, darted forward to seize it too. Sam 
burst into a fit of laughter, threw himself back to 
indulge it, and not being just then over .steady on hi.^ 



171 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

legs, lost his equilibrium, and toppled over the fender 
into the ashes. 

Leaving Mrs. Shuck to pick him up, or to leave him 
there — whicli latter negative course was the one she 
would probably take — let us return to Austin Clay. 

At Peter Quale's gate he was standing a moment to 
speak to the man before proceeding onwards, when Mrs. 
Quale came running down the garden path. 

" I was coming in search of you, sir," she said to 
Austin Clay. " Tliis has just been brought, and the 
man made me sign my name to a paper." 

Austin took what she held out to him — a telegraphic 
despatch. He opened it ; read it ; then in the prompt, 
decisive manner usual with him, requested Mrs. Quale 
to put him up a change of things in his portmanteau, 
which he would return for ; and walked away with a 
rapid step. 

" Whatever news is it that he has had ? " cried Mrs. 
Quale, as she stood with her husband, looking after 
him. " Where can he liave been summoned to ? " 

" 'Tain't no business of ours," retorted Peter ; " if it 
had been, he'd have enlightened us. Did you ever 
hear of that offer that's always pending ? — Five 
hundred a-year U) anybody as '11 undertake to mind 
his own business, and leave other folks's alone." 

Austin was on his way to Mr. Hunter's. A very 
frequent evening visitor there now, was lie. But this 
evening he had an ostensible motive for going ; a boon 



CALLED TO KETTEEFORD. 175 

to ci'ave. That alone may have made his footsteps 
fleet. 

In the soft twilight of the summer evening, in the 
room of their own house that opened to the con- 
servatory, sat Florence Hunter — no longer the im- 
pulsive, charming, and somewhat troublesome child, 
but the young and lovely woman. Of middle height 
and graceful form, her face w^as one of great sweetness ; 
the earnest, truthful spirit, the pure innocence, which 
had made its charm in youth, made it now ; to look 
on Florence Hunter was to love her. 

She appeared to be in deep thought, her cheek 
resting on her hand, and her eyes fixed on vacancy. 
Some movement in the house aroused her, and .she 
aro.se, shook her head, as if .she would shake care 
away, and bent over a rare ])lant iji the room's large 
opening, lightly touching the leaves. 

" I fear that mamma is right and I am wrcng, 
pretty plant I" she murmured. "I fear that you will 
die. Is it that this Loudon, with its heavy atmo- 
sphere " 

The knock of a visitor at the hall-door resounded 
through the house. Did Florence hwiu the knock, 
that her voice should falter, and the soft pink in lier 
cheeks .should deepen to a glowing crimson ? The 
room-door opened, and a servant annouiui-d Mr. Cla}-. 

In tliat early railway journey wImm tin y first met, 
Florence had taken a predilection for Austin Clay. 



170 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 

"I like liim so uiucli!" lia<l l»cen lier gratuitous 
announcement to licr uncle Henry. The liking had 
ripened into an attachment, firm and lasting — a child's 
attachment : but Florence grew into a woman, and it 
could not remain such. Thrown much together, the 
feeling had changed, and love mutually arose : they 
fell into it unconsciously. Was it quite prudent of 
Mr. Hunter to sanction, nay, to court the frequent 
presence at his house of Austin Clay ? Did he over- 
look the obvious fact that Austin was one who pos- 
sessed attractions both of mind and person, and that 
Florence was now a woman grown? Or did Mr. 
Hunter deem that the social barrier, which he might 
assume existed between his daughter and liis de- 
pendent, would effectually prevent all approach of 
danger ? Mr. Hunter must himself account for the 
negligence : no one else can do it. It was certain that 
he did have Austin very much at his house, but it 
was equally certain that he never cast a thought to 
the possibility that his daughter might be learning to 
love him. 

The strange secret, whatever it may have been, 
attaching to Mr. Hunter, 1ki«1 .shattered his health to 
that extent that for days together he would be un- 
cfjual to go abroad or to attend to business. Then 
Austin, who acted as jirincipal in the absence of Mr. 
Hunter, would arrive at the house when the day was 
over, rejtort progress, and take orders fir the next 



CALLED TO KETTERFOT^D. 177 

day. Or, ratlicr, would consult with him as to what 
the orders should be ; for in energy, in ca])ability, 
Austin was now the master-spirit, and Mr. Hunter 
bent to it. That over, Austin passed the rest of the 
evening in the society of Florence, conversing with 
her freely, confidentially ; on literature, ait, the news 
of the day ; on topics of home interest. Listening to 
her music, listening to her low voice, as she sang her 
songs, guiding her pencil, there they would be. He 
with his ready eloquence, his fund of information, his 
attractive manners, and his tine foiia, handsome in its 
height and strength ; she with her sweet fascinations, 
her gentle loveliness. What could be the result ? But, 
as is almost invariably the case, the last pei'son to 
give a suspicion to it was he who positively looked 
on, and might have seen all — Mr. Hunter. Life, in 
the presence of the other, luul l)ecome sweet to each 
as a summer's dream — a dream that had stolen ovct 
them ere they knew wliat it meant. ]5ut conscious- 
ness came with time. 

Very conscious of it weie they both as he entered 
this evening. Austin took her hand in greeting; a 
hand always tremulous imw in his. {She lient again 
over the [)lant .she was tending, lu-r cyelitls and her 
damask cheeks drooping. 

" You arc alone, Florence .' " 

"Just now. Mamma is very poorly this evening, and 
keeps her room. Papa was here a few miautcs ago." 

A U(b'» Secret 12 



178 A LIFE'S SECRET 

He released her hand, and stood looking at her, as 
she played with the petals of the flower. Not a word 
had Austin spoken of liis love; not a word was he 
sure that he might speak. If he partially divined 
that it might be acceptable to her, he did not believe 
it would be to Mr. Hunter. 

" The plant looks sickly," he observed. 
" Yes, It is one that thrives in cold and wind. It 
came from Scotland. Mamma feared this close London 
atmosphere would not suit it ; but I said it looked so 
hardy, it would be sure to do well. Rather than it 
should die, I would send it back to its bleak home." 
" In tears, Florence ? for the sake of a plant ? " 
" Not for that," she answered, twinkling the moisture 
from her eyelashes, as she raised them to his with a 
brave smile. " I was thinking of mamma ; she a])})ear3 
to be fading rapidly, like the plant." 

" She may grow stronger when the heat of summer 
shall have passed." 

Florence .slightly shook her head, as if she could 
not share in the suggested hope. " Mannna herself 
docs not seem to think she will, Austin. She has 
dropped ominous words more than once latterly. This 
afternoon I showed her the plant, and remarked that 
it was drooping. 'Ay, my dear,' she replied, 'it is 
like me — on the wane.' And I think my uncle 
Bevary's opinion has also become unfavourable." 
it was a matter on which Austin could not urge 



CALLED TO KETTEnFORt). 179 

hope, though, for the sake of tranquillizing Florence, 
he might suggest it, for he believed that Mrs. Hunter 
was fading rapidly. All these years she seemed to 
have been growing thinner and weaker. It was some 
malady connected with the spine, causing her at times 
great pain. Austin changed the subject. 

"I hope Mr. Hunter will soon be in, Florence. I 
have come to ask for leave of absence." 

" Papa is not out ; he is sitting with mannna. Tliat 
is another reason why I fear danger fur her. I think 
papa sees it ; he is so solicitous fur her comfort, so 
anxiuus tu bo with her, as if he would guard her iVuin 
surprise or agitating topics. He will not suffer a 
visitor to enter at hazard ; he will nut let a note be 
given her until he has first seen it." 

" But he has long been thus anxious," replied Austin, 
who was aware that what she spoke of had lasted for 
years. 

" I know. But still, latterly — however, I must 
liojjc against hope," broke oft" Florence. "I think 1 
do : hope is certainly a very strong ingredient in my 
nature, for I cannot realize the parting with my dear 
mother. Did you say you have come for leave of 
absence ? Where is it that you wish to go ? " 

" I liave had a telegraphic despatch from Kettcr- 
ford," he replied, taking it from his puckct. " My 
good old friend, Mrs. Thurnimett, is dying, jiikI I mu.st 
lianttMi tliitlii-'r \\ itli all spiiil." 



180 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

"Oil ! " uttered Florence, almost reproachfully. "Aiid 
you are wasting thu time with me ! " 

" Not so. The first train that goes there does not 
start for an hour yet, and I can get to Paddington in 
half one. The news has grieved me much. The last 
time I was at Ketterford — you may remember it — 
^Irs. Thornimc'tt was so very well, exhibiting no 
symptoms whatever of decay." 

" I remember it," answered Florence. " It is two 
years ago. You stayed a whole fortnight with her." 

"And had a battle with her to come away then," 
said Austin, smiling with the reminiscence, or with 
Florence's word " whole " — a suggestive word, spoken 
in that sense. "She wished me to remain longer. I 
wonder what illness can have stricken her ? It must 
have been sudden." 

" What is the relationship between you ? " 

" A distant one. She and my mother were second- 
cousins. If I " 

Austin was stoppetl by the entrance of Mr. Hunter. 
aVo changed, t<<> bent and l>owecl, since you, reader, last 
saw him! Tiie stout, upright iigui'c bad grown tliin 
and stooping, the fine dark hair was grey, the once 
calm, self-reliant face was worn and haggard. Nor 
was that all ; thciv was a constant 'n'sllcfinneiis in his 
manner and in the turn of liis cj'e, giving a spectator 
the idea tliat he lived in a state of ever-present, 
constant fear. 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 181 

Austin put the telegraphic message in his lianrl. 
"It is an inconvenient time, I know, sir, for me to be 
away, busy as we are, and with this agitation rising 
amongst the men; but I cannot help myself. I will 
return as soon as it is possible." 

^Ir. Hunter did not hear the words. Ilis eyes liad 
fallen on the word " Ketterford," in the despatch, and 
that seimied to scare away his senses. His hands 
shook as he held the paper, and for a few moments 
he appeared incapable of collected thought, of un<ler' 
standing anything. Austin explained again, 

" Oh ye.s, yes, it is onl)'- — it is Mrs. Thornimett who 
is ill, ami wants you — I comprehend now." He spoko 
in an incoherent manner, and with a sigh of the most 
intense relief " I — 1 — .saw the word ' dying,' and it 
startled me," he proceeded, as if anxious to account 
for his agitation. " Yon can go, Austin you must 
go. Remain a few days there — a week, if you find it 
necessary," 

" Thank you, sir. I will say farewell now, then." 

He shook liands with Mr. Hunter, turned to 
Florence, and took her liand. " ll<'inend)er me to 
.Mrs. Ifunter," he said in a low tone, which, in spit(i 
of himself, betrayed its own tenderness, "and tell lie;* 
I hope to find her better on my return." 

A few j)aces from the liou.se, as Ik^ went out, Austin 
encountered Dr. Bevary, " Is .she nnich worse ? " li« 
exclaimed to Austin, in ha,sty tones. 



182 A LIFE'S SECR3T. 

" Is who much worse, doctor ? " 

" Mrs. Hunter. I have just had a message from 
hor." 

"Not very much, I fancy. Florence said hor 
mamma was poorly this cvenini,'. I am off to Ketter- 
ford, doctor, for a few days." 

"To Kettcrford!" replied Dr. Bcvary, with an 
emphasis that showed the iu'ws had startled him. 
" What are you going there for ? For — for Mr. 
Hunter ? " 

" For myself," said Austin. " A good old friend is 
ill — dying, the message says— and has telegraphed 
for me." 

The physician looked at him searchingly. " Do you 
speak of Miss Gwinn ? " 

" I should not call her a friend," replied Austin. 
" I allude to Mr.s. Thornimett." 

" A pleasant journey to you, then. And, Clay, steer 
clear of those Gwinns ; they would bring you no good." 

It was in tho dawn of the early morning that 
Austin entered Kctterford. He did not let the grass 
grow under his feet between the railway terminus and 
Mrs. Thornimett's, though he was somewhat doubtful 
about disturbing the house. If she was really "dying," 
it might be well that he should do so; if only suffering 
from a severe illness, it might not be expected of him ; 
and the wording of the message had been ambiguous, 
leaving it an open f|uestion. As he drew within view 



CALLED TO KETTERFOED. 183 

of the house, liowever, it exliibited signs of bustle ; 
liglits not yet put out in the dawn, might be discerned 
through some of the curtained windows, and a woman, 
liaving much the appearance of a nurse, was coming 
out at tlie door, halting on the threshold a moment 
to luAd converse with one within. 

" Can you tell me how Mrs. Thornimett is ? " in- 
quired Austin, addressing himself to her. 

The woman shook her head. "She is crone, sir. 
Not more than an hour ago." 

Sarah, the old servant whom we have seen before 
at Mrs. Thorniinett's. came forward, weeping. " Oli, 
Mr. Au.stin ' oh, sir : why could not you get hero 
sooner ? " 

" How could I, Sarah ? " was his reply. " I received 
the message only last evening, and came off by the 
first train that started." 

" I'd have took a engine to myself, and rode upon 
its chimbley, but what I'd have got here in time," 
retorted Sarah. " Twice in the very last half-hour of 
her life she a.sked after you. ' Isn't Austin come ? ' 
' Isn't he yet come ? ' My dear old mistress ' " 

"Why was I not .sent for b«;foro ? " he a-skcd, in 
return. 

"Becau.se we never thought it was turning serious," 
sobbed Sarah. " She caught cold some days ago, and 
it flew to her throat or her chest, I liaidly know 
which. The doctor was called in ; and it's my belief 



184 A LIFE'S SECRET, 

hr <liiln't know : tho doctors nowadays hain't worth 
half wliat they used to he, and they call things by 
fiiK' names that nobody can understand. However it 
may have been, nobody saw any danger, neitlicr him 
nor us. But at mid-day yesterday there was a 
clianrje, and the doctor said he'd like further advice 
to be brought in. And it w\as had ; but they could 
not do her any good ; and she, poor dear mistress, was 
the first to say that she was dying. ' Send for Austin,' 
she said to me ; and one of the gentlemen, he went to 
the telegraph place, and wrote the message." 

Austin made no rejoinder: he seemed to be swallow- 
ing down a lump in l)is throat. Sarah resumed. 
" Will you .see her, sir ? She is just laid out." 

He nodded acquiescence, and the servant led the 
•way to the death-chamber. It had been put straight, 
so to remain until all that was left of its many years* 
occupant should be removed. She lay on the bed in 
placid stillness; her eyes closed, her pale face calm, 
a smile upon it; the calm of a spirit at peace with 
Heaven. Austin leaned over her, losing him.self in 
solemn thoughts. Wliither had the spirit flown? to 
what brifjlit unknown world ? Had it found the 
company of sister spirits ? liad it .seen, face to face, its 
loving Saviour ? Oh ! what mattered now the few 
fleeting trials of this life that had pa.s.sed over her! 
how wor.se than unimportant did they seem by the 
side of death ! A little, more or less, of care ; a lot, 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 185 

where shade or sunshine shall have predominated ; a 
few friends gained or lost ; struggle, toil, hope — all 
must merge in the last rest. It was over; earth, with 
its troubles and its petty cares, with its jo3's and 
sorrows, and its " goods stored up for many years ; " 
as completely over for Mary Thornimett, as though it 
had never been. In the higher realms whither her 
spirit had hastened 

" I told Mrs. Dubbs to knock up the undertaker, 
and desire him to come here at once and take the 
measure for the coffin." 

Sarah's interruption recalled Austin to the world. 
It is impossible, even in a death-chamber, to run away 
from the ordinary duties of daily life. 



186 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER III. 

TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 

" Vou will stay for tlie funeral, Mi\ Clay ? " 

" It is my intention to do so." 

"Good. Being interested in the will, it may be 
agreeable to you to hear it read," 

" Am I interested ? " inquired Austin, in some 
surprise. 

" Why, of course you are," replied ^Ir. Knapley, the 
lawyer with whom Austin was speaking, and who had 
the conducting of Mrs. Thornimett's affairs. " Did you 
never know that you were a considerable legatee ? " 

" I did not," said Austin, " Some years ago — it 
was at the death of Mr. Thornimott — Mrs. Thorni- 
metfe hinted to me that I might be the better some 
time for a trifle from hor. But she has never alluded 
to it since : and I have not reckoned upon it." 

" Then I can tell you — though it is revealing .secrets 
beforehand — that you are the better to the tune of 
two thousand pounds. 

" Two thousand pounds ! " uttered Austin, in sheer 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 187 

amazement. " How came slic to leave me so much as 
that?" 

" Do you quarrel with it, young sir ? " 

" No, indeed : I feci all possible gratitude. But I 
am surprised, nevertheless," 

" She was a clever, clear-sighted woman, was ^Irs. 
Thornimett," observed the lawyer. " I'll tell you about 
it — how it is you come to have so much. "When I 
was taking directions fur Mr. Thornimett's will — 
more than ten years ago now — a discussion arose 
between him and his wife as to the propriety of 
leaving a sum of money to Austin Clay. A thousand 
pounds was the amount named. Mr, Thornimett was 
for leaving you in his wife's hands, to let her bequeath 
it to you at her death ; Mrs. Thornimett wished it 
should be left to you then, in the will I was about to 
make, that you might inherit it on the demise of Mr. 
Thornimett. lb' took his own course, and did not 
leave it, as you are aware." 

" I did not expect him to leave me anything," inter- 
rupted Austin. 

"My young friend, if you break in with these 
remarks, I shall not reach the en<l of my story. Aftrr 
her hu.sband's burial, Mrs. Thornimett si)okc to me. 
'I particularly wished the thousand pounds left now 
to Austin Clay,' she said, 'and I shall aitpropriatc it 
to him at once.' 'Appropriate it in what manner?' 
I a.sked ht-r, 'I .sliouhl like to [mt it out to interest. 



IRfi A LTFK'S RKCRKT. 

that it may accumulate for him,' she replied, 'so that 
at my di-atli ho may receive both principal ami 
interest.' 'Then, if you live as long as it is to be 
hoped you will, madam, you may be bequeathing him 
two thousand pounds instead of one/ 1 observed to 
her. ' Mr. Knapley,' was her answer, ' if 1 choose to 
bequeath him three thousand, it is my own money 
that I do it with ; and I am responsible to no one.' 
She had taken my remai-k as a remonstrance, you see, 
in which spirit it was not made: had Mrs. Thornimett 
chosen to leave you the whole of her money she had 
been welcome to do it for me. ' Can you help me to 
a safe investment for him ? ' she resumed ; and I 
promised to look about for it. The long and the short 
of it is, Mr. Clay, that I found both a safe and a pro- 
fitable investment, and the one thousand pounds has 
swollen itself into two — as you will hear when the 
will is read." 

" I am truly obliged for her kindness, and for the 
trouble you have taken," exclaimed Austin, with a 
glowing colour. " 1 never thought to grow rich all at 
once." 

" You only be prudent, and take care of it," said Mr. 
Knapley, "Be as wise in its use as 1 and Mrs. 
Tiiornimett have been. It is the best advice I can 
give you." 

" It is good advice, I know, and I thank you for it," 
wanuly responded Austin. 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 189 

" Ay. 1 can tell you that less than two thousand 
pounds has laid the foundation of" many a great 
fortune." 

To a young man whose salary is only two hundred 
a-year, the unexpected accession to two thousand 
pounds in hard cash seems like a fortune. Not that 
Austin Clay cared so very much for " a fortune " in 
itself; but he certainly did hope to achieve a com- 
petency, and to this end he made the best use of the 
talents bestowed upon him. He was not ambitious 
to die " worth a million ; " he had the rare good sense 
to know that excess of means cannot bring excess of 
happiness. The richest man on earth cannot eat two 
dinners a-day, or wear two coats at a time, or sit two 
thoroughbred hor.ses at once, or sleep on two beds. 
To some, riches are a source of continual trouble. 
Unless rightly used, they cannot draw a man to 
heaven, or helj) him on his load thither. Austin 
Clay's ambition lay in becoming a powerful man of 
business; such as were the Messrs. Hunter. He would 
like to have men under him, of whom lie .should be 
the master; not to contr<.>l them with an iron hand, 
to grind them to the dust, tu hold them at a haughty 
distance, as if they were of one species of humanity 
and he of another. No; he woidd li(»ld intact their 
relative positions of master and servant— none m»>ru 
strictly than he; but he would be tluir consitlerate 
friend, tlieir tinu ailvucate, ri'gardftd ever of their 



190 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

interests as he was of his own. He would like to 
have sufficient capital for all necessary business opera- 
tions, that he might fulfil every obligation justly and 
honourably : so far, money would be welcome to 
Austin. Very welcome did the two thousand pounds 
sound in his ears, for they might be the stepping- 
stone to this. Not to the " fortune " talked of by 
Mr. Knapley, who freely avoM-ed his respect for 
millionaires: he did not care for that. They might 
also be a stepping-stone to something else — the 
very thought of which caused his face to glow and 
his veins to tingle — the winning of Florence Hunter. 
That he would win her, Austin fully believed 
now. 

On the day previous to the funeral, in walking 
through the streets of Ketterford, Austin found him- 
self suddenly seized by the shoulder. A window had 
been thrown open, and a fair arm (to speak with the 
gallantry due to the sex in general, rather than to that 
one arm in particular) was pushed out and laid upon 
him. His captor was Miss Gwinu. 

" Come in," .she briefly said. 

Austin would have been better pleased to avoid 
her, but as she had thus summarily caught him, there 
was no help for it : to enter into a battle of contention 
with her might be productive of neither honour nor 
profit. He entered her fiitting-room, and she motioned 
him bo a chair. 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 191 

" So you did not intend to call upon me during your 
stay in Ketterford, Austin Clay ? " 

" The melancholy occasion on which I am here pre- 
cludes much visiting," was his guarded reply. " And 
my sojourn will be a short one." 

" Don't be a hypocrite, young man, and use those 
unmeaning words. ' Melancholy occasion 1 ' What 
did you care for Mrs. Thoniimett, that her death 
should make you ' melancholy ? ' " 

" Mrs. Thoniimett was my dear and valued i'rieml," 
lie returned, with an emotion born of anger. " There 
are few living whom I would not rather have spared. 
I shall never cease to re<;ret not having arrived in 
time to see her before she died." 

Mi.ss Gwinn peered at him from her keen eyes, as 
if seeking to know whether this was false or true. 
Possibly she decided in favour of the latter, fur her 
face somewhat relaxed its sternness. " What has Dr. 
Bevai-y told you of me and of my aflairs ? " she re- 
joined, passing abruptly to another subject. 

" Not anything," replied AustiiL He did not lift 
his eyes, and a scarlet flush dyed his brow as he 
spoke; nevertheless it was the strict truth. Mi.s.'j 
Gwinn noted the signs of consciousness. 

" You can equivocate, I see." 

"Pardon me. I have not et^uivocated to you, Dr. 
Bevary haw disclosed nothing; he has never s|>oken to 
me of your aflaiis. Why shouM lu', MinH Gwinn ?" 



192 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Your face tolJ a different tale." 

" It did not tell an untruth, at any rate," he said, 
with some hauteur. 

" Do you never see Dr. Bevary ? " 

" I see him sometimes." 

" At the house of Mr. Hunter, I presume. How is 
she I " 

Again the flush, whatever may have called it up, 
crimsoned Austin Clay's brow. " I do not know of 
whom you speak," he coldy said. 

" Of Mrs. Hunter." 

"She is in ill-health.'' 

" 111 to be in danger of her life ? I hear so." 

" It may be so. I cannot .say." 

" Do you know Austin Clay, that I have a long, 
long account to settle with you ? " she resumed, after 
a i>ause : " years and years have elapsed since, and I 
have never called upon you for it. Why should I ? " 
she added, relapsing into a dreamy mood, and .speaking 
to herself rather than to Austin ; " the mi.schief Avas 
done, and could not be recalled. I once addressed a 
brief note to yo\i at the office of the Mesars. Hunter, 
requesting you to give a letter, enclosed in it, to my 
brother. Why did you not do so ? " 

Austin was silent. He retain('<l only too vivitl a 
remembrance of the fact. 

" Why did you not give it him, I ask ? " 

" I could not give it liim, Miss Gwinn. When your 



TWO THOUSAND POUXDS. 103 

letter reached me, your brotlier had already been at 
the office of the Messrs. Hunter, and was then on his 
road back to Ketterford. Tlie enclosure was burnt 
unopened." 

" Ay I " she passionately uttered, throwing her arms 
upwards in mental pain, as Austin had seen her do in 
tlie days gone by, and holding commune with herself, 
regardless of his presence, " such has been my fate 
tln-ough life. Thwarted, thwarted on all sides. For 
years and years I had lived but in the hope of finding 
him; the hope of it kept life in mc: and when the 
time came, and I did find him, and was entering upon 
my revenge, then tliis Ijrother of mine, who has been 
the .second bane of my existence, stepped in and 
reaped the reward. It was my fault. Why, in my 
exultation, did I tell him the man was found ? Did 
I not know enourrh of his avarice, his needs, to have 
made sure that he would turn it t<j his own account ? 
Why," .she continued, battling with her hands as with 
some invisible adversary, " was I born with this strong 
principle of jtistice within mc ? Why, because ho 
stepped in with his false claims and drew gold — a 
fortune — of the man, did I deem it a reason for drop- 
ping W]) revenge ?— for letting it rest in abeyance? 
In abeyance it is still ; and its unsatisfied claims arc 
wearing out my heart and my life " 

"Miss Gwinn," interrupted Austin, at length, "I 
fancy you forget that I am present, lour family 

A Life's Secret. 13 



104 A LIFF-rS SECRET. 

atiair.s have iiutliing to do with me, auil I would preier 
not to liear anythhig about thcui. I will wish you 
good-day." 

" True. They have nothing to do with you. I 
know not why I spoke before you, save that your 
."ii'dit angers nie." 

" Why so ? " Austin could not forbear askmg. 

*' Because you live on terras of friendship with that 
man. You are as his right hand in bu-siness ; you are 
a welcome guest at his house ; you regard and respect 
the house's mistress. Boy ! but that she has not 
wilfully injured me ; but that she is the sister of Dr. 
Bevary, I should " 

" I cannot listen to any discussion involving the 
name of Hunter," spoke Austin, in repellant, resolute 
tones, the colour again flaming in his cheeks. " Allow 
me to bid you good-day." 

" Stay," she resumed in a softer tone, " it is not 
with you personally that I am angry " 

All interruption came in the i^erson of Lawyer 
Gwinn. He entered the room without lii.s coat, a 
pen behind each ear, and a dirty straw hat on his 
head. It was probably his oftice attire in warm 
weather. 

" I thought I heard a strange voice. How do you 
do, Mr. Clay ? " he exclaimed with nuich suavity. 

Austin bowed. He said something to the effect 
that he was on the point of departing, and retreated 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 105 

to the door, bowing his final farewell to Miss Gwinn. 
Mr. Gwinu followed. 

" Ketterford will have to congratulate you, ^Ir. 
Clay," he said. " I understand you inherit a ^■eI•y 
handsome sum from Mrs. Thornimett." 

" Indeed ! " frigidly replied Austin. " Mrs. Tliorni- 
mett's will is not yet read. But Ketterford always 
knows every one's business better tlian its own." 

"Look you, my dear Mr. Clay," said the lawyer, 
holding him by the button-liole. " Should you require 
a most advantageous investment for your money — one 
that will turn you in cent, per cent, and no risk — I 
can help you to one. Should your inlieritance be of 
the value of a thousand pounds, and you would like to 
double it — as all men, of course, do like — ^just trust it 
to me ; I have the very thing now open." 

Austin shook himself free — nitlior too mucli in tlio 
manner that he might have shaken himself fiom a 
serpent. " Whether my inlieritance may be of the 
value of one thou.sand pounds or of ten thousand, Mr. 
Gwinn, I shall nut re(piirc your services in the dis- 
posal of it. Good-morning." 

The lawyer looked aftm- him as he strode away. 
"So, you carry it with a high hand to mo. do yoti, my 
brave gentleman ! with }'t)ur \ain jkmsoii, nii'l your 
fine clothes, and your imperious nuumer ; Take you 
care ! I hold your nuuster luider my thumb ; I may 
next hold youl" 



10(5 A LIFE'S SECHKT. 

"The vile liypocrite !" ejaculated Austin to Ininsclf, 
walking all the faster to leave the lawyer's liouse 
behind him. " She is l)ad enough, with her hankering 
after revenge, and her fit« of passion ; but she is an 
angel of light compared with him. Heaven help Mr. 
Hunter ' It would have been sufficient to have had 
her to fight, but to have hiiii! Ay, Heaven help 
him ' " 

"How d'ye d«», ^^r. Clay?" 

Austin returned the nod of the pas.sing acquaiMtancc, 
and continued his way, his thoughts reverting to Miss 
Gwinn. 

" Poor thing ! there are times when I pity her ! In- 
comprehensible as the story is to me, I can feel com- 
jiassion ; for it was a heavy wrong done her, looking 
at it in the best possible light. She is not all bad ; 
but for the wrong, and for her evil temper, she might 
have been different. There is something good in the 
hint I gathered now from her lips, if it be true — that 
she suffered her own revenge to drop int(j abeyance, 
because her brother had pursued Mr. Hunter to drain 
money from him : she would not go upon him in both 
ways. Yes, there was something in it both noble and 
generou.s, if those terms can ever be applied to " 

" Austin Clay, T am sure ! How are }'ou ? " 

Austin resigned his hand to the new-comer, who 
claimed it. His tlioughts could not be his own to-day. 

The funeral of Mrs. Thomimett took place. Her 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 197 

mortal remains were laid beside her husb .nd, there to 
repose peacefully until the last trump shall sound. On 
the return of the mourners to the house, tlic will 
was read, and Austin found himself the undoubted 
possessor of two thousand pounds. Several little 
treasures, in the shape of books, draAvings, and home 
knicknacks, were also left to him. He saw after the 
packing of these, and the day following the funeral he 
returned to London. 

It was evening when he arrived ; and he proceeded 
without delay to the house of Mr. Hunter — ostensibly 
to report himself, really to obtain a sight of Florence, 
for which his tu-ed heart was yearning. The drawing- 
room was lighted up, by which he judged that they 
had friends with them. Mr. Hunter met him in the 
hall : never did a visitor's knock sound at his door but 
Mr. Hunter, in his nervous restlessness, strove to 
watch who it might be that entered. Seeing Austin, 
his face accjuired a shade of brightness, and he came 
forward witli an outstretched haml. 

" But you have visitors," Austin said, when greet- 
ings were over, and Mr. Hunter was drawing him 
towards the stairs. Ho wore deep mourning, l)Ut was 
not in evening dress. 

"As if any one will care for the cut of youi- e<^at ! " 
cried Mr. Hunter. "Tlnif's Mis. llimti r wiap|tcd up 
in a woollen shawl." 

The room was gay with light and dress, with many 



198 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

voices, and witli music. Florence was seated at the 
piano, playing, and singing in a glee with others. 
Austin, silently greeting those whom he knew as 
he passed, made his way to Mrs. Iluutor. She was 
wrapjiod in a warm shawl, as her husband had .«;aid ; 
hut she appeared bettor than usual. 

"I am so glad to see you looking woU," Austin 
whispered, his earnest tone betraying deep feeling. 

" And I am glad to see you here again," she replied, 
smiling, as she held his hand. " We have missed you, 
Austin. Yes, I feel better ! but it is only a temporary 
improvement. So you have lost poor Mrs. Thornimett. 
She died before you could reach her." 

" She did," replied Austin, with a grave face. " I 
wish we could get transported to places, in case of 
necessity, as quickly as the telegraph brings us news 
that we are wanted. A senseless and idle wish, yon 
will say ; l)ut it wouM have served me in this case. 
She asked after me twice in her last half-hour." 

"Austin," breathed Mrs. Hunter, "was it a happy 
death-bed ? Was she ready to go ? " 

"Quite, finite," he answered, a look of enthusiasm 
illiuiiiniiig his face. "She had long been ready." 

"Then we neeil not mourn for her; rather praise 
God that she is taken. Oh, Austin, what a happy 
thing it must bo for such to die I But you are 
young and hopeful ; you cannot understand that yet." 

So, Mrs. Hunter had learnt that ^Teat trath ! Some 



TWO THOUSAND TOUNDS. 11)0 

years before, she liad not so spoken to tlio wile of Joliii 
Baxendale, Avhon she was waiting in daily expectation 
of being called on her journey. It had come to her 
ere her time of trial — as the dying woman had told 
her it would. 

The singing ceased, and in the movement wliicli it 
occasioned in the room, Austin left Mrs. Hunter's side, 
and stood within the embrasure of the window, half 
hidden by the curtains. The air was pleasant on that 
warm summer night, and Florence, resigning her place 
at the instrument to some other lady, stole to the 
window to inhale its freshness. There she saw Austin. 
She had not heard him enter the room — did not know, 
in fjict, that he was back from Ketterford. 

" Oh ! " she uttered, in the sudden revulsion ot 
feeling that the sight brought to her, " i.s it you ? " 

He quietly took her hands in his, and looked down 
at her. Had it been to save her life, she could not 
liave helped betraying emotion. 

" Are j'ou glad to see me, Florence ? " he softly 
whispered. 

She coloured even to teans. Glad ! Tho time might 
come when she should be able to tell him so ; but that 
time was not yet. 

"Mrs. Hunter is glad of my return," he continued, 
in the same low tone, sweeter to her car than all 
music. " She says I have been missed. Is it so, 
Florence ? " 



200 A LIFE'S SKCRET. 

"And what have you been doinj^ i " asked Florence, 
not knowing in the least wluit she said in her con- 
fusion, as she left his question unanswered, and drew 
lior hands away from him. 

" I have not been doing much, except seeing a dear 
old friend laid in the earth. You know that Mrs. 
Thornimett is dead. She died before I got there." 

"Papa told us that. He heard from you two or 
three times, I tliink. How 3'ou must regret it 1 But 
why did they not send for you in time ? " 

" It was only the last day that danger was appre- 
hended," replied Austin. " She grew worse suddenly. 
You cannot think, Florence, how strangely this gaiety " 
— he half turned to the room — "contrasts with the 
scenes I have left: the holy calm of her death- 
chamber, and laying her in the grave." 

" An unwelcome contrast, I am sure it must be." 

" It jars on tlie mind. All events, essentially of the 
world, let them be ever so necessary or useful, must do 
so, when contrasted with the solemn scenes of life's 
close. But how soon we forget those solemn scenes, 
an<l live in the world again ! " 

"Austin," she gently whispered, "I do not like to 
talk of death. It reminds mo of the dread that is 
ever oppressing me." 

" She looks so much better as to surprise mo," was 
his answer, unconscious that it betrayed his undoubted 
cognizance of the " dread " she .spoke of. 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 201 

" If it would only last I " siglied Florence. " To 
prolong mamma'.s life, I think I would sacrifice my 
own." 

"No, you would not, Florence — in mercy to her. If 
called upon to lose her you would grow reconciled to 
it ; to do so is in the order of nature. She could not 
spare you." 

Florence believed that she never could grow recon- 
ciled to it : she often wondered hoiv she should l)ear 
it when the time came. But there rose up before her 
now, as she spoke with Austin, one cheering promise, 
" As thy day is, so shall my strength be." 

" What should you say, if I tell you I have ccnne 
into a fortune ! " resumed Austin, in lighter tones. 

'•J should say But, is it true?" broke off 

Florence. 

"Not true, as you and Mr. Hunter would count 
fortunes," smiled Austin ; " but tnic, as poor I, born 
without a silver spoon in my mouth, and expecting to 
work hard for all I shall ever possess, have looked 
upon them. Mrs. Thornimett has behaved to me 
most kindly, most generously ; she has bequeathed 
to mo two tliousand ixtunds." 

"I am delight<'d to hear it," .said Florence, her glad 
eyes sparkling. " Never call yourself poor again." 

"I cannot call myself rich, as Mr. and Mrs. Hunter 
estimate riches. But, Florence, it may be a ste|»ping- 
atone to becoming so." 



202 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

"A stcpping-stono to hecoming what?" denianded 
Dr. Be vary, l>roaking in upon tlic conference. 

" Rich," said Austin, turning to the doctor. " I am 
telling Florence that I have come into some money 
.'^incc I went awa}-." 

Mr. Hunter and others were gathering around thorn, 
and the conversation became general. " What is that. 
Clay ? " asked Mr. Hunter. " You have come into a 
fortune, do you say ? " 

" I said, not into a fortune, sir, as those accustomed 
to fortune would estimate it. That great physician, 
standing there and listening to me, would laugh at the 
sum ; I dare say he makes more in six month.s. But 
it may prove a stepping-stone to fortune, and to — to 
other desirable things." 

" Do not speak so vaguely," cried the doctor, in his 
quaint fashion. " Define the ' desirable things,' Come ! 
it's m}' turn now." 

" I am not sure that they have taken a sufficiently 
tangible form as yet, to be defined," returned Austin, 
in the same tone. " You might laugh at them as day- 
dreams." 

Unwittingly his eyes rested for a moment upon 
Florence. Did she deem the day-dreams might 
refer to her, that her eyelids should droop, and her 
cheeks turn scarlet ? Dr. Bevary noticed both the 
look and the signs ; Mr. Hunter saw neither. 

" Day-dreams would be enchanting as an Eastern 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 203 

fairy-tale, only that they are never realized/' interposed 
one of the fiiir guests, with a i)retty simper, directei] 
to Austin Clay and his attractions. 

" I will realize mine," he returned, rather too con- 
fxlently, " Heaven helping me ! " 

"A better stepping-stone, that hcl}\ to idy ii])on, 
than the money you liave come into," said Dr. I'cvar^' 
with one of his peculiar nods. 

"True, doctor," replied Austin. "But may not the 
money have come from the same helping source ? 
Heaven, you know, vouchsafes to work with humble 
instruments." 

The last few sentences had been interehanfjed in 
low tones. They now passed into the general circle, 
and the evening went on to its close. 

Austin and Dr. Bevary were the last to leave the 
house. They quitted it together, and the doctor 
pas.sed his arm within Austin's as they walked on. 

" Well," .said he, " and what have you been doing at 
Ketterford ? " 

"I have told you, doctor. Leaving m}- dear old 
friend and relative in her grave ; and realizing tlie 
fact that she has bequeathed to mo this money." 

"Ah, yes; I heard that," returned the doctor. 
"You've been seeing fricntls too, I suppose. ])id y«>u 
happen to meet the Gwinn.s ?" 

"Once. I was passing the hotise, and Miss CJwinn 
laid hanils upon me from the win<li»w. and ciiniiiianded 



204 A LIFK'S SECRET. 

me in. I ijot out acjain as soon as I could. Her 
brother made his appearance as I was leaving." 

"And what did he say to you ? " asked the doctor, 
in a tone meant to be especially light and careless. 

"Nothing ; except that he told me if I wanted a 
safe and profitable investment for the money I had 
inherited under Mrs. Thornimett's will, he could help 
me to one. I cut him very short, sir." 

" What did nJie say ? " resumed Dr. Bevar3^ " Did 
she begin upon her family atiairs — as she is rather 
fond of doing ? " 

" Well," said Austin, his tone quite as careless as the 
doctor's, " I did not give her the opportunity. Once, 
when she seemed inclined to do so, 1 .stopped her ; 
telling her that her private affairs were no concern of 
mine, neither would I listen to them." 

" Quite right, my young friend," emi)hatically spoke 
the doctor. 

Not another word was said until they came to 
Dattbdil's Delight. Here they wished each other good- 
night. The doctor continued his way to his home, 
and Austin turned down towards Peter Quale's. 

lint what could be the matter? Had Daffodil's 
Delight miscalculated the time, believing it to be day 
instead of night ? Women leaned out of their 
windows in night-ca})s; children had crept from their 
beds and come forth to tumble into the gutter naked, 
as some of them literally were ; men crowded the door- 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 20S 

^vay of tlic Bricklayer's Arms, and stood al)out with 
pipes and pint-pois; all were in a state of rampant 
excitement. Austin laid hold of the first ])crson who 
appeared sober enough to listen to him. It happened 
to be a woman, Mrs. Dunn. 

" What is this ? " he exclaimed. " Have you all 
come into a fortune?" the recent conversation at Mr. 
Hunter's probably helping him to the remark. 

" Better nor that," shrieked Mrs. Dunn. " Better 
nur (hat, a thousand times ! We have circumvented 
the masters, and got our ends, and now we shall just 
]ia\e all we want — roast goose and apple pudding for 
dinner, and plenty of beer to wash it down with." 

" But what is it that you have got ? " pursued Austin, 
who was completely at sea. 

"idotl why, we have got the strike," she rejilied, 
in joyful excitement. " Pollocks' men struck to-day. 
Where have you been, sir, not to have heer'd on it ? " 

At that moment a fresh crowd came jostling down 
Daffodil's Delight, and Austin was parted from the 
lady. Indeed, she ruslicd up to the mob to follow 
in its wakf". Many other la<lies followed in its wake 
—half Daffodil's Delight, if one might judge by 
numbers. Shouting, singing, exulting, dancing; it 
/leemed as if they had, for the nonce, gone mad. Sam 
Shuck, in his long-tailed coat, ornamented with its 
holes and its slits, was leading the van. his voice 
hoarse, his face red, his legs and arms executing a 



20G A LIFE'S SECRET. 

war-dance of exultation. He it was who had got 
up the excitement and was keeping it up, shouting 
fiercely : " Hurrah for the work of this day ! Rule 
Britanniar ! Britons never shall be slaves ! The strike 
has begun, friends' H — o — o — o — o — o — r — rah! 
Three cheers for the strike ! " 
Yes. The strike had besrun. 



( 207 ) 



CHAPTER IV. 

AGITATION. 

The men of an influential metropolitan building lirm 
Lad struck, because their employers declined to accede 
to certain demands, and Daffodil's Delight was, as you 
have seen, in a high state 'of excitement, particularly 
the female part of it. The men said they struck for a 
diminution in the hours of labour ; the masters told 
tliem they struck for an increase ot wages. Seeing 
that the non-contents wanted the hours reduced and 
nut the pay, it appears to me that you may call it 
which you like. 

The Messrs. Hunters' men — with whom we have to 
do, for it was they who chielly filled Dallbdil's Delight 
— though continuing their work as usual, were in a 
most unsettled state ; as was the case in the trade 
generally. The smouldering discontent might have 
died away peacefully enough, and probably would 
have done so, but that certain spirits nuide it tlieir 
business to fan it into a flame. 

A few days went on. One evening, Sum Shuck 



208 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 

posted liimself in an anfjle tornied l»y the wall at the 
top of Daffodil's Delight. It was the hour for the men 
to quit work; and, as they severally j)assed him on 
their road home, Sam's arm was tlirust forward, and a 
folded bit of paper put into their hands. A mysterious 
sort of missive apparently ! for, on opening the paper, 
it was found to contain only these words, in the long, 
sprawling hand of Sam himself; " Jjarn at the back of 
Jim Duiui's. Seven o'clock." 

Behind the house tenanted by the Dunns were 
premises occupied until recently by a cowkeeper. 
They comprised, amidst other accommodation, a large 
barn, or shed. Being at present empty, and to let, 
Sam thought he could do no better than take French 
leave to make use of it. 

The men hurried over their tea, or sup})er (some 
took one on leaving work for the nij;ht, some tho 
other, some a mixture of both, and some neither), that 
they might attend to the invitation of Sam. Peter 
Quale was seated over a substantial dish of batter 
pudding, a bit of neck of mutton l)ake<l in the middle 
of it, when he was interrupted by the entrance of John 
Baxendale, who had stepped in frum his own rooms 
next door. 

" Be you a-going to this meeting, Quale ? " Baxendale 
asked, as he took a seat. 

" I don't know nothing about it," returned Peter. 
" I saw Slippery Sam a-giving out papers, so I guessed 



AGITATIO^^ 209 

there was something in the wind. He took care to 
pass me over. I expect I'm the greatest eyesore Sam 
has got just now. Have a bit?" added Peter, un- 
ceremoniously, pointing to the dish before him with 
liis knife. 

" No, thank ye ; I have just had tea at homo. That's 
the paper" — laying it open on the table-cloth. "Sam 
Shuck is just now cock-a-hoop with this strike." 

" He is no more cock-a-hoop than the rest of 
Daffodil's Delight is," struck in Mrs. Quale, who had 
finished her own meal, an<l was at leisure to talk. 
" The men and women is all a-iroino- mad toijether, I 
think, and Slippery Sam's leading 'em on. Su])poso 
you all do strike — which is what they arc hankering 
after — what isood '11 it brin<r ? " 

" That's just it/' leplied Baxendalo. " One cant see 
one's way clear. The agitation might do us some 
good, but it might do us a deal of harm ; so that one 
doesn't know what to be at. Quale, I'll go to thu 
meeting, if you will." 

" If I go, it will bo to give 'em a piece of my miml," 
retorted Peter. 

"Well, it's only right that diflercnt sides .should bo 
heard. Sain "11 have it all his own way else." 

" He'll manage to get that, by the appearance things 

wears," said Mrs. Quale, wrathfully. " How yoii men 

can submit to be led by such a fellow ns him, just 

because liis tongue is capaliK' of persuading you tliat 

A. Life's Se«rcU M 



210 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Mack's Avliitt.', is a marvel to me. Talk of women 
being soft ! let men talk of theii'selvcs. Hold up a 
finger to 'em, and they'll go after it : like tho 
Swiss cows Peter read of the other day, a-llocking 
in a line after their leader, behind each other's 
tails." 

" I wish 1 knew what was right," said Baxendale, 
" or which course would turn out best for us." 

" I'd be off and listen to what's ffoing on, at anv 
rate," urged Mrs. Quale. 

The barn was filling. Sam Shuck, perched upon 
Mrs. Dunn's washing-tub turned upside down, which 
had been rolled in for the occasion*, greeted each group 
as it arrived with a gracious nod. Sam appeared to 
be progressing in the benefits he had boasted to his 
wife he .should derive, inasmuch as the dilapidated 
clothes had been discarded for better ones : and lie 
stood on the tub in all the glory of a black frock-coat, 
acrimson neck-tie with lace ends, and peg-top panta- 
loons : the only attire (as a ready-made outfitting shop 
had assured him) that a gentleman could wear. Sam's 
eye grew less com])lacent when it rested on Teter 
Quale, who was coming in with John Baxendale. 

" This is a ]de<asure we didn't expect," said he. 

"Maybe not," returned Peter Quale, drily. "The 
barn's open to all." 

"Of cour.se it is," glibly said Sam, putting a good 
face upon the matter. " All fair and above board, is 



A(;1TATI0N. 211 

our mottur : -wliich is more tliaii tliem native enemies 
of ours, the masters, can say : they hold their meetings 
in secret, witli clused duors." 

" Not in secret — do they ? " asked Robert L)arl)y. 
'■ I liave not lieard of tliat." 

" They meet in their own homes, and they shut out 
strangers," replied Sam. " I'd like to know what you 
call that, but meeting in secret ? " 

"I should not call it secret: I should call it 
private," decided Darby, after a minute's pause, given 
to realizing the question. " We might do the same. 
Our homes are ours, and we can .shut out whom we 
please." 

" Of course we mirjht,'' contended Sam. " But we 
like better to be open; and if a few of us assemble 
together to consult on the present aspect of affairs, we 
do it so that the masters, if they choose, might come 
and hear us. Things are not ecpialized in this world. 
Lot us attempt secret meetings, and see how soon wo 
should be looked up by the law, and accused of hatch* 
injx treason and sedition, and all the rest of it. That 
sharp-eyed Timca newspaper would be the first to set 
on us. There's one law for the masters, and another 
fur the men." 

"Is that SHppery Sam?" ejaculated a new-comcl", 
at this juncture. "Where did you get tliat line new 
toggery, Shuck ? " 

The disrespectful interrupt ion was spuken in simplo 



212 A I.IFK'S SKCRKT. 

.surprise : no insidious meaning prompting it. Sam 
Sluick had appeared in ragged attire so long, that the 
change could not fail to be remarkable. Sam loftily 
turned a deaf ear to the remark, and continued his 
address. 

" I am sure that most of you can't fail to see that 
things have come to a crisis in our trade. The moment 
that broufjht it was when that <^reat building firm 
refused the reasonable demands of their men ; and the 
natural consequence of which was a strike. Friends, 
I have been just riled ever since. I have watched you 
go to work day after day like tame cats, the same as 
if nothing had happened; and 1 have said to myself: 
' Have those men of Hunter's got souls within them, 
or have they got none :' ' " 

"I don't suppose we have parted from our souls/' 
struck in a voice. 

" You have parted with the feelings of them, at any 
rate," rejoined Sam, beginning to dance in tlie excite- 
ment of contention, but rcmembcrinii in time that his 
terra jlrma was only a creaky tub. " What's that 
you ask me? How have you parted with them? 
Why, by not following up the strike. If you poH.se6Scd 
a grain of the independence of free men, youM have 
hoisted your colours before now ; what would have 
been the result ? Why, the men of other firms in the 
trade wouM have followed suit, and all struck in a 
body. It's the onlj way tluu will I'ling the masters 



AGITATION. 213 

to reason : the only way Ly wliich we can hope t'j 
obtain our rights." 

"You see there's no knowing wliat M'ould bo the 
end of a strike, Shuck," argued John Baxendaie. 

"There's no knowing wliat may be in the inside of 
a pie until you cut him open," said Jim Dunn, wliose 
politics were the same as ^[r. Shuck's, red-lmt i".ir 
striking. " But 'tain't many as 'ud shriidv from 
putting in the knife to .see." 

The men laughed and greeted Jim Dunn with 
applause. 

" I jnit it to 3'ou all," resumed Sam, who took his 
share of laughing with the rest, " whether there's 
sen.se or not in what I say. Are we likely to get our 
grievances redressed by the masters, unless we force 
it ? Never: not if we prayed our hearts out." 
"Never," and "never," murmured sundry voices. 
" What arc our grievances ? " demanded Peter Quale, 
putting the question in a matter-of-fact tone, a.s if 
h)' really asked for information. 

"Listen!" ironically ejaculated Sam. "lie asks 
what our grievances are ! I'll answer you. Quale. 
They are many and great. Are we not kept to work 
like beasts of burden, t<'n hoins a-day ? Does that 
leave us time for the recreation of our wearied holies, 
for the improvement of our minds, for tl>e education 
of pur children, for the social houic intercourse in the 
bosoms of our families ? By docking the day's labour 



214 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

to nine liours— or to ei<jflit, wliicli wo shall ^'et, may 
be, after awhile," aJded Sara, with a wink — " it woiikl 
leave us the extra hour, and be a blessing." 

Bam carrie(l the admiring room with him. That 
hard, disbelieving Peter Quale, interrupted the 
cheering. 

"A ble.ssing, or the contrairy, a> it might turn out," 
cried he. " Its easy to talk of education, and self- 
improvement; but how many is there that wouM 
vise the accorded hour that way ? " 

'' Another grievance is our wages," resumed Sam, 
drowning the words, not caring to court discussion on 
what might be a weak point. " We call ourselves 
men, and Englishmen, and yet we lie down contented 
with five-and-sixpence a-day. Do you know what 
our trade gets in Australia ? Oh, you do, some of 
you ? then I'll tell those that don't. From twelve to 
fifteen shillings per day : and even more than that. 
Twelve shillings! and that's the minimum rate of 
pay," slowly repeated Sam, lifting up his arm and 
one peg-top to give emphasis to the word.s. 

A murmur of envy at the coveted rate of pay 
In Au.stralia shook the room to the centre. 

" But the price of provisions and other necessaries 
is enormous in that quarter," debated Abel AVhite. 
" So it may come to the .same in the end — be about 
as broad as long. Old father and me was talking 
about it last night." 



AGITATION. 21 5 

"If every LoJy went in for your old father's senti- 
ments, we should soon be like him — in our dotage," 
loftily observed Sam. 

"But things are dear there," persisted Sam's 
antagonist. " I have heard what is sometimes given 
for shoes there ; l)ut I'm afraid to say, it was so much. 
The wages in Australia can't be any guide for us." 

" No, they can't," said Peter Quale. " Australia 
is one place, and this is another, Where's the use 
of bringing that up ? " 

" Oh, of course not," sarcastically uttered Sam. 
"Anything that tends to show how wo are put upon', 
and how we might be made more comfortable, it's 
of no use bringing up. The long and the sliort of 
it is this . wo want to be regarded as men . to have 
our voices considered, and our plaints attended to; 
to be put altogether upon a 1 tetter footing. Little 
enough is it we ask at present; only for a modicum 
of ease in our day's hard labour, just the thin end of 
the wedge inserted to give it. That's all we are 
agitating for. It depends upon ourselves whether wo 
get it or not. Let us displa}' numly courage and join 
the strike, and it is ours to-m(»rrow. " 

The response did not come so quickly as Sa)n 
deemed it ought, lie wont on in jiersuasivo. ringing 
tones. 

"Consider the wivts of yotir l)0.soms ; consider 
your little cliihhcn: consider yourselve.s. Were ycu 



21G A LIFE'S SECRET. 

born int(j tlie woiM to be slaves — blackyinoors ; to 
be fjrouiid into tlie dust witli toil ? Never." 

" Never," uproaiioiusly echoed three-parts of tlio 
room. 

" The mottor of a true man is, or ought to be, ' Do 
as little as you can, and get as much for it as 
pos.sible, ' " said Sam, dancing in his enthu.sia.sin, and 
thereby nearly losing his perch on the tub. " With 
an hour's work less a-day, and the afternoon holiday 
on the Saturday, wo .shall " 

" What's the good of a afternoon Saturday holitlay ? 
\Vc don't want that, Sam Shuck." 

This ignominious interruption to the proceedings 
came from a lady. Buzzing round the entrance-door 
and thrusting in their heads at a square hole, which 
might originally have been intended for a window, 
were a dozen or two of the gentler .sex. Tins irregula- 
rity had not been luiobserved by the chairman, who 
faced them : the chairman's audience, densely packed, 
had their backs that way. It was not an orthodox 
adjunct to a trade meeting, that was certain, and the 
chairman would pi'obably have ordered the ladies 
away, liad lie dt.MMiitd thrre was a chance of his being 
obeyed ; but too many of them had the reputation 
of being the grey mare. So he winked at the 
irregularity, and had added one or two flourishes of 
oratory for their especial ears. The interruption 
came from Mrs. Cheek, Timothy Cheek's wife. 



AGITATION. 217 

" What's the good of a afternoon Saturday holiday ? 
We don't want that, Sam Shuck. Just wlien we Itc 
up to our eyes in dirt and cleaning, our places routed 
out till you can't see the colour of the boards, for 
brooms and pails, and soap and water, and the chairs 
and things is all topsy-turvy, one upon another, so as 
the children have to be sent out to grub in the gutti'r, 
for there ain't no place for 'em indoors, do you think 
•we want the men poking their noses in? No; and 
they'd better not try it on. Women have got tempers 
given to 'em as well as you." 

"And tongues too," rejoined Sam, forgetting the 
dignity of his office. 

" It is to be hoped they have," retorted Mr.s. Cheek, 
not inclined to be put down ; and lier sentiments 
appeared to be warmly joined in by the ladies 
generally. "Don't you men go a-agitating for the 
Saturday's half-holiday! AVhat 'ud you do witli 
it, do you .suppo.se? Why, just sot it away at tlie 
publics." 

Some confusi(jn ensued; and the Monicn were jtcr- 
emptorily ordered to mind their own business, and 
"make tlx'irselves .scarce," which not one of them n(- 
temptcd to obey. When the commotion had subsided, 
a very respectable man t<t<>k uj) tlie discouiNo — Cleorg«5 
Stevens. 

"The gist of the w-h(tle (piestion is this," he saitl: 
"Will agitation do us good, or will it do us harm? 



218 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

We look upon ourselves as representing one interest ; 
the masters consider they represent another. If it 
conies to open warfare between the two, the strongest 
would win." 

"In other words, whichever side's funds lield out 
tlie longest," said Robert Darby. " That is as I look 
ujion it." 

" Just so," returned Stevens. " I cannot say, seeing 
no farther than we can see at present, that a strike 
would be advisable." 

" Stevens, do you want to better yourself, or not ? " 
asked Sam Shuck. 

" I'd be glad enough to better myself, if I saw my 
way clear to do it," was the reply. " But I don't." 

" We don't want no strikes," struck in a shock- 
headed, hard-working man. " What is it we want to 
strike for ? We have got plenty of work, and full 
wages. A strike won't fill our pockets. Them may 
vote for strikes that like 'em ; I'll keep to my work." 

Partial applause. 

" It is as I said," cried Sam. " There's poor, mean- 
spirited creatures among you, as won't risk the loss of 
a day's pay for the common good, or put out a hand to 
hel]) the less fortunate. I'd rather be buried alive, five 
feet under the earth, than I'd show out so selfish." 

" What is the interest of one of us is the interest of 
all," observed Stevens. " And a strike, if we went 
into it, would either benefit us all in the end, or make 



AGITATION. 219 

us all suffer. It i.s sheer nonsense to attempt to make 
out that one man's interest is different from another's ; 
our interests are the same. I'd vote for striking to- 
morrow, if I were sure wc should come out of it with 
whole skins, and get what we struck for : but I must 
see that a l)it clearer first." 

"How can we get it, unless we try for it?'' de- 
manded Sam. " If the masters find we're all deter- 
mined, they'll give in to us. I appeal to you all" — 
raising his hands over the room — "whether the 
masters can do without us ? " 

"That has got to he .seen," .said Peter Quale, signifi- 
cantly. " One thing is plain : we could not do with- 
out them." 

"Nor they without us — nor they Avithout us," 
struck in voices from various parts of the barn. 

"Then why .shilly-.shally about the question of a 
strike?" asked Sam of the barn, in a glib tone of 
reasoning. " If a universal strike were on, the masters 
would pretty soon make terms that would end it. 
Why, a six-months' strike would drive lialf of them 
into the Gazette " 

" lUit it might drive us into the workhouse at the 
same time," interrupted John Ba.xendale. 

" Let me iini.sh," went on Sam ; " it's not perlite to 
tak(; np a man in the middle of a sentence. F .say 
that a six-nionth.s' strike would send many of the 
masters to the bankruptey cnint. Wril now, there 



220 A LIFE'S SKCIIKT. 

lias lucii a (nicstion debated amon^,' us" — Sam Icnvorcd 
liis voice — "whether it wouhl not bo policy to lot 
tilings go on quietly, as they are, till next spring " 

" A question among who ? " interposed Peter Quale, 
regardless of the reproof just administered to John 
Baxendale. 

"Never yoii mind wht»," returned Sam, with a 
wink: "among those that are hard at work for your 
interest. With thtar contracts for the season signed, 
and their works in full progress, say about next May, 
tluii would be the time for a strike to tell updu tlie 
masters. However, it has been thought better not to 
delay it. The future's but an uncertainty : the present 
is ours, and so must the strike be. Have you wives ? " 
he pathetically continued; " leave yo\x children? lixive 
you spirits of your own ? Then you will all, with 
one accord, go in for the strike." 

" But what are our wives and children to do while 
the strike is on ? " asked Robert Darby. " You say 
yourself it might last six months, Shuck. Who would 
HUj>poi't them ? " 

"Who!" rejoined Sam, with an in(rn;iiant air, as if 
the question were a superfluous one. " Why, the 
Trades' Unions, of course. TliaCx all settlcMl. The 
Unions are prepared to take care of all who are out 
on .strike, standing up, like brave Britons, for their 
privileges, and keep 'em like fighting-cock.s. Iloox'oar 
for that blessed boon^ the Trades' Uuiona I " 



AGITATION. 221 

"Hooioav I'ur the Trades' Unions!" was shouted in 
clioiu.s, " Keep us like fighting-cocks, will they ! 
Hooroar ! " 

" Much good }-ou'll get from the Trades' Unions ! " 
burst forth a dissentient voice. " They are the greatest 
pests as ever was allowed in a free country." 

The opposition caused no little commotion. Stand- 
ing by the door, having pushed his way through tlic 
surrounding women, who had not made themselves 
"scarce," was a man in a flannel jacket, a cap in his 
hand, and his head white with mortar. He was 
looking excited as he spoke. 

"This is not regular," said Sam Shuck, displaying 
authority. " You have no business liere : you don't 
belong to us." 

" Regular or irregular, I'll speak my mind, ' was the 
answer. " I have been at work for Jones the builder, 
down yonder. I have done my work steady and 
proper, and 1 have had my pay. A man comes up to 
me yesterday and says, ' Vou must join the Trades' 
Union.' ' No,' says T, ' I shan't ; I don't want nothing 
of the Trades' Union, and the Union don't want 
nothing of me.' So they goes to my master. ' W \«>u 
keep on employing tins man, your otlier men will 
strike,' they says to him ; ami he, being in a smull 
way, got intimidated, and sent me off to-tlay. Ami 
here I am, throwed out of work, and I have got a >^ick 
wife and nine young children to kvv\v. Is tliat 



222 A LIFE'S SECllKT. 

justice ? or is it tyranny i Talk about emancipating 
the slaves ' let us emancipate ourselves at home." 

"Why don't you join the Union"?" cried Sam. 
"AH do, Avho are good men and true." 

" All good men and true don't," dissented the mun. 
" Many of the best workmen among us won't lia\c , 
anything to do with Unions ; and you know it, Sam 
Shuck." 

" Just clear out of this," said Sam. 

" When I've had my say," returned the man, " not 
before. If I would join the Union, I can't. To join 
it, I must pay five shillings, and I have not got them 
to pay. With such a family as mine, you may guess 
every shilling is forestalled afore it comes in. I kept 
myself to myself, doing my work in quiet, and inter- 
fering with nobody. W^hy should they interfere with 
mc?" 

" If you have been in full work, five shillings is not 
much to pay to the Union," sneered Sam. 

" If I had my pockets filled with five-shilling pieces, 
I would not pay one to it," fearlessly retorted the man. 
" Is it right that a free-born Englishman should give 
in to such a system of intimidation ? No : I never 
will. You talk of the masters being tyrants : it's you 
who are the tyrants, one to another. What is one 
workman better than his fellow, that he should lay 
down laws and say, You shall do this, and j'^ou shall 
do that, or you shan't be allowed to work at all ? 



AGITATION. 223 

That lulo yuii want U) ^ut i)a.ssed — tliat a skilled, 
thorough workman shoukln't do a lull day's work 
bccau.se some of his Iclluws can't — who's agitating for 
it ? Wliy, naturally those that can't or won't (hj 
tlie full work. Would an honest, capable man go 
in for it ? Of course he'd not. I tell you what " — 
tuminfj his eves on the room — " the Trades' Unions 
have been called a protection to the working man ; 
but, if you don't take care, they'll grow into a 
curse. When Sam Shuck, and other good-for-naughts 
like him, what never did a full week's work for their 
families yet, arc paid in gold and silver to spread 
incendiarism among you, it's time you looked to 
yourselves." 

He turned away as he spoke ; and Sam, in a dance 
of furious passion, danced off his tub. The interlude 
liad not tended to increase the feeling of the men in 
Sam's favour — that is, in the cause he advocated. 
Not a man present but wanted to better himself could 
he do so with safety, but they were afraid to enter on 
air^re.ssivc measures. Indiscriminate talkinj; ensued : 
diverse opinions were disputed, and the meeting was 
prolonged to a late liour. Finally the men disj)er.sed 
as they came, nothing having been resolved upon. 
A ffw set their faces resolutely against the pro- 
lM)sed strike ; a few were red-hot for it ; but the 
majority were undecided, and liable to be swayed 
either way. 



224 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" It will come," nodded Sam Shuck, as he went 
home to a supper of pork chops and gin-and-water. 

But Sam was destined to be — as he would have 
expressed it — circumvented. It cannot be sup}»osed 
that this unsatisfactory state of things was unnoticed 
by the masters : and they took their measures accord- 
ingly. Forming themselves into an association, they 
discussed the measures best to be adopted, and deter- 
mined upon a lock-out; that is, to close their yards 
until the firm whose workmen had struck should 
resume work. They also resolved to employ only 
those men who would sign an agreement, or memo- 
randum, affirming that they were not connected with 
any society which interfered with the arrangements of 
the master whose service they entered, or with the 
hours of labour, and acknowledging the rights both of 
masters and men to enter into any trade arrangement:^ 
on which they might mutually agree. This paper of 
agreement was not relished by the men at all ; they 
styled it "the odious document." Neither was the 
lock-out relished : it was of course etjuivalent, in ono 
sense, to a strike ; only that the initiative had come 
from the masters' side, and not from theirs. It com- 
menced early in August. Some of the masters closed 
their works without a word of explanation to their 
men: in one sense it was not needed, for the men 
knew of the measure beforehand. Mr. Hunter chose 
to asscm))le them together, and state what he was 



AGITATION. 225 

about to do. Somewhat of his old energy appeared 
to have been restored to hiin for the moment, as he 
stood before them and spoke — Austin Clay by bi.'^ 
side. 

" You have brought it upon yourselves," he said, in 
answer to a remark from one who boldly, but respect- 
fully, asked whether it was fair to resort to a lock-out, 
and so punish all alike, contents and malcontents. " I 
will meet the question upon your own grounds. 
When the Messrs. Pollocks' men struck because their 
demands, to work nine hours a-day, were not acceded 
to, was it not in contemplation that j-^ou should join 
them — that the strike should 1)0 universal ? Answer 
me candidly," 

The men, true and honest, did not deny it. 

"And possibly by this time you would have struck," 
said Mr. Hunter. " How much more ' fair ' would 
that have been towards us, than this locking-out is 
towards you ? Do you ."suppose that you alone are to 
meet and pa.ss your laws, saying you will coerce tlio 
ma.sters, and that the masters will not ])ass laws in 
return ? Noasensc, my men 1 " 

A jiause. 

" \Vlien have the masters attempte<l to interfere 
with your privilege.s, either by saying that your 
day's toil shall consist of longer hours, or by diminish- 
ing your wages, mid threatening to turn you off il" 
you do not fall in with tlic alteration ? Never. 

A Lifi'd Sfcnt. ' ^ 



220 A L[FK'S SECRET. 

Masters liave riifhts as well as men ; but sonic of you, 
of late, have appeared to ignore the fact. Let 
ine ask you anotlicr question : Were you well treated 
under uie, or were you not ? Have I shown myself 
solicitous for j'our interests, for your welfare ? Have 
I ever oppressed you, ever put upon you ? " 

No, Mr. Hunter had never sought to oppress them : 
they acknowledged it freely. He had ever been a 
good master. 

" My men, let mo give you my opinion. Whilst 
condemning your conduct, your semblance of dis- 
content — it has been semblance rather than reality^- 
I have been sorry for you, for it is not with you 
that the chief blame lies. You have suffered evil 
persuailers to get access to your ears, and have been 
led away by their pernicious counsels. The root of 
the evil lies there. I wish you could bring your 
own good-sense to bear upon these points, and 
to see with your own eyes. If so, there will be 
nothing to prevent our resuming together amicable 
relations; and, for my own part, I care not how 
soon the time shall come. The works are for tho 
present closed." 



PART THE THIRD. 



CIIAPTEII 1. 

A rUEMATURE AVoWAL. 

Daffodil's Delight was in all the gluiy of tlio lock- 
out. The men, having nothing to do, inii)roved their 
time by enjoying tliomselves ; they stood about the 
street, or lounged at their doors, smoking their short 
pipes and (quaffing draughts of beer. Let money run 
ever so short, you will generally see that beer and pipes 
can be found. As yet, the evils of being out of work 
were not felt; for weekly pay, sufficient for support, 
was supplied them by the Uni(ju Committee. The 
men were in high spirits — in that sort of mootl 
implied by the words " Never .say die," which phrase 
was often in thcii' nioutlis. 'J'liey e.xjuesscd them- 
selves dett'rmin('(l to hoM out; and this determination 
wa.s continually fostoeil by the agents of the Union, 
of whom Sam Shuck was the chief : chief as regarded 
Daffodil's Delijjht — inferior as regarded other agenta 
elsewhere. Many of the more temperate of (hf men, 
who had not particularly urged the strike, were 
warm suj)porters now of tho general ()j)inion, for 



230 A LliTE'S SECtlET. 

they regarded the lock-out as an unwarrantable 
piece of tyranny on the part of the masters. As to 
the ladies, they were over-warm partisans, generally 
speaking, making the excitement, the unsettled state 
of Datibdil's Delight, an excuse for their own idleness 
(they are only too ready to do so when occasion 
oticrs), and collected in groups round the men, or 
squatted themselves on door-steps, proclaiming their 
opinion of existing things, and boasting that they'd 
hold out for their rights until death. 

It was almost like a summer's day. Seated in a 
chair at the bottom of her garden, just wiLliin the 
gate, was Mary Baxendale. Not that she was there 
to join in the gossip of the women, little knots of 
whom were dotting the street, or had any intention 
of joining in it : she was simply sitting there 
for air. 

Mary Baxendale Avas fading. Never very strong, 
she had, fur the last year or two, been gradually 
declining, and, with the excessive heat of the })ast 
summer, her remaining strength appeared to have 
gone out. Her occupation, that of a seam.stress, 
had not tended to keep her in health ; she had a 
great deal of work offered her, her skill being 
excellent, and she had .sat at it early and late. Mary 
was thouirhtful and conscientious, and she was 
anxious to contribute a full share to the home 
support. Her father had married again, had now 



A PREMATURE AVOWAL. 231 

two young children, and it almost appeared to Mary 
as if she were an interloper in the paternal home. 
Not that the new Mrs. Baxendalc made her feel this : 
she Avas a bustling, hearty woman, fond of show and 
spending, and of setting off her babies ; but she was 
kind to Mary. 

The capability of exertion appeared to bo past, 
and Mary's days were chiefly spent in a quiescent 
state of rest, and in frequently sitting out-of-doors. 
This day — it was now the beginning of September — 
was an unusually bright one, and she drew her 
invalid shawl round her, and leaned back in her seat, 
looking out on the lively scene, at the men and 
women comrrcoatin^j in the road, and inhaling the 
fresh air. At least, as fresh as it could be found in 
Daffodil's Delight. 

" How di) yiju feel to-day, Mary ^ " 

The (picstioner was Mrs. Quale. She had coiiie 
out of lier house in her bonnet and shawl, bent on 
sonic errand, and stopped to accost Mary. 

" I am ])retty well to-day. That is, 1 should be, if 
it were not for the weakncs.s." 

" Weakness, ay ! " cried Mrs. Quale, in a snapping 
8ort of tone, for she was living in a state of chronic 
tartness, not approving of matters in general just 
now. " And what have you had this morning to 
fortify you against the weakness. 

A I'iiint blush rose to Mary's tliin fae<'. The 



2.^2 A LIFE'S SECUET. 

subject was a sure one to tlic mind of Mrs. Quale, and 
that lady was not one to spare her tongue. The 
fact was, that at the ])rescnt moment, and for some 
little time ])ast, Mary's condition and p^petite liad 
required unusual nourishment; but, since the lock- 
out, this had not been procurable by John Baxendalc. 
Sufficient food the household had as yet, but it was of 
a jtlain coarse sort, not suitable for Mary ; and Mrs. 
Quale, bitter enougli against the existing condition of 
things before, touching the men and their masters, 
was not by this rendered less so. Poor Mary, in her 
patient meekness, would have subsided into her grave 
with famine, rather than complain of what she saw no 
help for. 

" Did you have an egg at eleven o'clock ? " 

" Not this morning. I did not feel greatly to care 
for it." 

" Rubbi.sh ! " responded Mrs. Quale. " I may say I 
don't care for the moon, because I know I can't get it." 

"But I really did not feel to have any appetite just 
then," repeated Mary. 

"And if you ]ia<l an appetite, 1 sujipase you couldn't 
have been any the nearer satisfying it ! " returned 
Mr.s. Quale, in a raised voice. " You let your stomach 
get en)[)ty, and, after a bit, the craving goes off and 
sickncs.s comes on, and then you say you liave no 
appetite. But, there ! it is not your fault ; where 's 
the use of my " 



A Pr.EMATUnE AVOWAL. 233 

" Why, Mary, girl, what's the matter ? " 
The interruption to Mrs. Quale proceedeil iVoiii Dr. 
Bcvary. He was passing the gate with Miss Hunter. 
They stopped, partly at sight of Mary, who was looking 
strikingly ill, partly at the commotion Mrs. Quale was 
making. Neither of them had known that Mary was 
in this state. Mrs. Quale was the first to take up the 
discourse. 

" She don't look over-flourishing, do she, sir ? — do 
.she, Miss Florence ? She have been as bad as this — 
oh, for a fortnight, now." 

"Why did you not send rny uncle word, Mary?" 
spoke Florence, impulsive in the cause of kindness as 
she had been when a child. " I am sure he would 
have come to see you." 

" You are very kind, miss, and Dn Be vary is also," 
said Mary. " I could not think of troubling him with 
my poor ailments, especially as I feel it w.mlil be 
uscles.s. I don't think anybody can do inc good on 
this side the grave, sir." 

"Tu.sh, tu.sh ! " intei'po.seii Dr. Bcvary. "That's 
what many sick ])eople say -, but they get well in .spite 
of it. Let us .sec 30U ji bit closer,' hi' a<lde(l, going 
inside the gate. " And nuw trll inc how }"ou foel. ' 

" I am ju.st sinking, sir, jis it seems to me ; sinking 
out of life, without much ailment to tell of. 1 ha\e a 
great deal of fever at night, and a dry cough. It is 
not so much consumption as " 



i:^\ A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Wlio told you it was consumption ? " intciruptcil 
Dr. Bevaiy. 

" Some of the women about here call it so, sir. My • 
stepmother does : but I should say it was more of a 
waste." 

" Vour stepmother is fond of talking of what she 
knows nothing about, and so are the women," re- 
marked Dr. Bevary. " Have you much appetite ? " 

" Yes, she has, and that's the evil of it," struck in 
Mrs. Quale, determined to lose no opportunity of 
propounding her view of the case. "A pretty time 
this is for folks to have appetites, when there's not a 
copper being earned. I wish all strikes and lock-outs 
was put down by law, I do. Nothing comes of 'em 
but empty cubbarts." 

" Your cu[)board need not be any the emptier for a 
lock-out," said Dr. Bevary, who sometimes, wlien (jon- 
vcrsing with the women of Daffodil's Delight, would 
lull familiarly into their mode of speech. 

"No, I know that ; we have been providenter than 
that, sir!" returned Mrs. Quale. "A i)ity but what 
others could say the same. You might take a walk 
through Daffodil's Delight, .sir, from one end of it to 
the other, and not find lialf-a-dozen cubbarts with 
plenty in 'em just now. Serve 'em right! they should 
have put by ft)r a rainy day." 

"Ah ! " returned Dr. Bevary, "rainy days come to 
most of us as we go through life, in one shape or 



A PREMATUllE AVOWAL. 235 

another. It is well to provide for them when wo 
can," 

" And it's well to keep out of 'em where it's practic- 
able," wrathfully remarked Mrs. Quale. " There no 
more need have been this disturbance between masters 
and men, than there need be one between you and 
me, sir, this moment, afore you walk away. They be 
just idiots, are the men'; the women be worse, and I'm 
tired of telling 'em so. Look at 'em," added Mr.s. 
Quale, directing the doctor's attention to the female 
ornaments of Dattbdil's Delight. " Look at their 
gowns in jags, and their dirty caps ! they make the 
men's being out of W(^rk an excuse for their idleness, 
and they just stick theirselves out there all day, 
a-crowing and a-gossiping." 

" Crowing ? " exclaimed the doctor. 

"Crowing; every female one of 'cm, like a cock 
upon its dunghill," responded Mrs. Quale, who Avas 
not given to pick her words when wrath was moving 
her. " There isn't one as can sec an iuch beyond lier 
own nose. If the lock-out lasts, and starvation comes, 
let 'cm see how tlii-yU crow then. It'll be on t'other 
side their mouths, I fancy ! " 

" Money is dealt out to them by the Trades' T'^nion, 
sufticient to live," ob.served Dr. Bevary. 

"Sutlicient not to starve," indepenilently corrected 
Mrs. Quale. " Wiiat is it, sir, tlie bit of money tliey 
get, to them that have enjoyed their thirty-fivo 



2.ir, A Llt-E'S SECRET. 

shillings a-woek, and could hardly make that do, some 
of 'em ? Look at the Baxendalcs. There's Mary, 
wanting more food that she did in health ; ay, and 
craving for it. A good bit of meat once or twice in 
the day, an egg now and then, a cup of cocoa and 
milk, or good tea — not your wishy-washy stuff, bought 
in by the ounce — how is she to get it all ? The 
allowance dealt out to John Baxendalc keeps 'em 
in bread-and-checsc ; I don't think it does in much 
else. 

They were interrupted by John Baxendale himself, 
lie came out of his house, touching his hat to the 
doctor and to Florence. The latter had been leaning 
over Mary, in(|uiring softly into her ailments, and the 
complaint of Mrs. Quale, touching the short-comings 
of Mary's comforts, had not reached her ears ; that 
lady, out of regard to the invalid, having deemed it 
well to lower her tone. 

" I am Sony, sir, you should see her so poorly," said 
Baxendale, alluding to his daughter. " She'll get 
better, I hope." 

" I must try what a little of my skill will do t'jwards 
it," replied the doctor. " If .she ha<l sent me word .she 
was ill, I woidd have come before." 

"Thank ye, sir. I don't know as I should have 
been backward in a.sking you to come round and take 
a look at her; but a man don't like to ask favours 
when he has got no money in his pocket; it makes 



A PREMATURE AVOWAL. 237 

him feel little, and look little. Tluufjs are not in a 
Katisfactory state witli us all just now." 

" They are not indeed." 

"I never thought the masters would go to the 
extreme of a lock-out," resumed Baxendale. " It was 
a harsh measure." 

" On the face of it it does seem so," responded Dr. 
Bevary. " But what else could they have done ? 
Have kept open their works, that those on strike 
might have been supported from the wages they paid 
their men, and probably have found those men also 
striking at last ? If you and others had wanted to 
escape a lock-out, Baxendale, you should have been 
cautious not to lend yourselves to the agitation tliat 
was smouldering," 

" Sir, I know there's a great deal to be said on both 
.sides," was the reply. " I never was for the agitation ; 
I (lid not urge the strike; I set my face nearly dead 
again.st it. The worst is, we all liave to suffer for it 
alike." 

"Ay, that is the W(jrst of things in this world," 
responded the doctor. " Wlien people do wrong, tlu« 
consequences are rarely confined to themselves ; they 
extend to the innocent. Come, Florence. I will set? 
you again later, Mary." 

The doctor and his niece walktMl away. .Mrs. Qiialt^ 
had already departed on her en-and. 

"He was always a kiiwl man," obscrve<l John 



238 A LIFE'S SKCRET. 

Baxendale, looking after Dr. Bevary. "1 hope he 
Mill 1)0 uVtlo to euro you, Mary." 

" I don't feel that ho will, father," was the low 
answer. But Baxendale did not hear it; he was 
goini,' out at the gate to join a knot of neighbours, 
who wore gathered together at a distance. 

" Will Mary Baxendale soon get well, do you think, 
uncle ? " demanded Florence, as they wont along. 

" No, my dear, I do not think she will." 

There was something in the doctor's tone that 
startled Florence. " Uncle Bevary ! you do not fear 
fehe will die ? " 

'• I do fear it, Florence ; and that she will not ho 
long first." 

" Oh ! " Tlion, after she had gone a few paces 
further, Florence withdrew her arm from his. " I 
must go back and stay with her a little while. 1 had 
no idea of this." 

" Mind you don't repeat it to her in your chatter," 
called out the doctor ; and Florence .shook her head 
by way of answer. 

" I am in no hurry to go home, Mary; I thought I 
would return and stay a little longer with you," was 
her greeting, when she reached the invalid. "You 
must feel it dull, sitting here alone." 

"Dull! oh no. Miss Florence. I like sitting b^' 
myself and thinking." 

Florence smiled. " What do you think about ? " 



A I'lJKMATURE AVOWAI.. 239 

"Oh, miss, I quite lose myself in thinking. I think 
of my Saviour, of how kind He was to everybody ; 
and I think of the beautiful lifo wo are tauglit to 
expect after this life. I can hardly believe that I 
shall soon be there." 

Florence paused, feeling as if she did not know 
what to say. " You do not seem to fear death, Mary. 
You speak rather as if you wished for it." 

" I do not fear it. Miss Florence ; I have been learn- 
ing not to fear it ever since my poor mother died 
Ah, miss ! it is a great thing to learn ; a great boon, 
when once it's learnt." 

"But surely you do not want to die!" exclaimed 
Florence, in surprise. 

" Miss Florence, as to that, I feel quite satisfied to 
let it be as God pleases. I know I am in His good 
hands. The world now seems to me to be full of caro 
and trouble." 

" It is very strange," murmured Florence. " Mamma, 
too, believes she is near death, .and she exj)resses 
no reluctance, no fear. I do not think she feels 
any." 

"Miss Florence, it is only auotlier proof ui' Clod's 
mercies," returned the sick girl. " My mother used to 
.say that you could not be quite ripe for death until 
you felt it ; that it came of God's goodness and 
Christ's love. To such, death .seems a l)l«ssing instead 
of a terror, so that when their time is drawing near, 



240 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

they are glad to die. There's a gentleman waiting to 
speak to you, miss." 

Florence lifted her head hastily, and encountered the 
smile and outstretched hand of Austin Clay. But 
that ^lary Baxendale was unsuspicious, she miglit 
have gathered something from the vivid blush that 
overspread her cheeks. 

" I thought it was you, Florence," he said. " I 
caught sight of a young lady from my sitting-room 
window; but you kept your head down before 
Mary." 

" I am sorry to see Mary looking so ill. My uncle 
was hero just now, but he has gone. I suppose you 
were dcej) in your books { " she said, with a smile, her 
face regaining its less radiant hue. " This lock-out 
piust be a grand time for 3'ou." 

•' So grand that I wish it wore over,'' he answered. 
" I am sick of it already, Florence. A. fortnight's 
idleness will tire out a man worse than a month's 
work." 

" Is there any more chance of its coming to an end, 
sir ? " anxiou.sly inquired Mary Baxendale. 

"I do not see it," gravely replied Austin, "The 
men appear to be too blind to come to any reasonable 
terms." 

" Oh, sir, don't cast more blame on them than you 
can help ! " she rejoined, m a tone of intense pain. 
" They are all ltd away by the Trades' Union ; they 



A PKEMATURE AVOWAL. 241 

are, uiJeed. If once they enrol under it, they must 
only obey." 

" Wt'll, Mary, it comes to what I say — that they are 
blinded. They should have better sense tlian to be 
led away," 

" You s})eak as a master, sir." 

" Probably I do ; but I have brought my common 
sense to bear upon the question, both on the side of 
the masters and of the men; and I believe that this 
time the men are wrong. If they had laboured under 
any real grievance, it would have been difterent ; but 
they did not labour under any. Their wages were 
good, work was plentiful " 

" I say, Mary, I wish you'd just come in and sit by 
the little ones a bit, while I go down to the bade 
kitchen and rinse out the clothes." 

The interru])tion came from Mrs. Baxendale, wlio 
had thrown up li.r wimluw to speak. Mary ruso at 
once, took her j)iliow from the cliair, \s islu-d Florence 
good-day, and went indoors. 

Austin held the gate open for Florence to pa.ss out: 
he was not intending to accompany lier. She stood a 
moment, speaking to liim, when some one, who hiul 
come up rapidly and .stealthily, laid his great liand on 
Austin's arm. Absorbed in Florence, Austin had ii<»t 
observed liim, and he looked u[) witli a start. It was 
Lawyer Clwinn, of Ketterford, and lu- appraiid to be 
in .some anger or excitement. 

A Llfv'a Secret. 16 



242 A LIFK'S SECKET. 

" Young Clay, where is your master to-day ?" 

Neither the sahitation nor the manner of the man 
pleased Austin; his appearance, there and then, 
especially displeased him. His answer was spoken 
in haughty defiance. Not in policy : and in a cooler 
moment he would have remembered the latter to have 
been the only safe diplomacy. 

A strangely bitter smile of conscious power parted 
the man's lips. " So you take part with him, do you, 
sir ! It may be better for both you and him, that 
you bring me face to face with him. They have 
denied me to him at his house ; their master is out of 
town, they say; but I know it to be a lie: I know 
that the message was sent out to me by Hunter him- 
self I had a great mind to force " 

Florence, who was looking deadly white, inter- 
rupted, her voice haughty as Austin's had been. 

" You labour under a mistake, sir. My father is 
out of town. He went this morning," 

Mr. Gwinn wheeled round to her. Neither her 
tone nor Austin's was calculated to abate his anger. 

" You are his daughter, then ! " he uttered, with the 
same insolent stare, the same displayed irony he had 
once used to her mother. " The young lady whom 
people envy as that spoiled and only child. Miss 
Hunter 1 What if I toll you a secret? — that 
you " 

"Be still!'' shouted Austin, iu uncontrollable 



A PREMATUnK AVOWAL. 243 

emotion. " Are you a man, or a demon ? Miss 
Hunter, allow me," ho cried, grasping the hand of 
Florence, and drawing her peremptorily towards 
Peter Quale 's door, which he threw open. " Go 
upstairs, Florence, to my sitting-room : wait there 
until I come to you. I must be alone with this man." 

Florence looked at him in amazement, as he pushed 
her into the passage. He was evidently in the deepest 
agitation : every vestige of colour had forsaken his 
face, and his manner was authoritative as any father's 
could have heen. She bowed to its power uncon- 
sciously, not a thought of resistance crossing her 
mind, and went straight upstairs to his sitting-room 
— although it might not be precisely correct for a 
young lady so to do. Not a soul, excepting herself, 
appeared to be in the house. 

A .short colloquy and an angry one, and then Mr, 
Gwinn was seen returning the way he had come. 
Au.stin came .springing up the stairs three at a time. 

" Will you forgive me, Florence ? I could not do 
otherwise." 

What with the suddenness of the proceedings, their 
strangeness, and her own doubts and emotion, Fl(U-enco 
liurst into tear.s. Austin lost his lica*! : at least, all 
prudence that was in it. In the agitation of the 
moinont he suffered his long-controlled feelings to get 
the l)ettcr of him, and spoke words that he had 
hitherto successfully rcprcs.sed. 



244 A LIFE'S SF.CRKT. 

" My darling ! " he \vliispcred, taking her hand, " I 
^vish I CDuld have shielded you from it I Florence, 
you know — you must long have known — that my 
dearest object in life is yourself — your happiness, 
your welfare. I had not intended to say this so 
soon ; it has been forced from me : you must pardon 
me for saying it here and now," 

She gently disengaged the hand, and he did not 
attempt to retain it. Her wet eyelashes fell on her 
blushing cheeks ; they were like a damask rose 
glistening in the morning dew. 

" But this mystery ? — it certainly seems one," she 
exclaimed, striving to speak with matter-of-fact calm- 
ness. " Is not that man Gwinn, of Kettcrford ? " 

" Yes." 

" Brother to the lady who seemed to cause so much 
emotion to papa. Ah ! I was only a child at the time, 
but I noticed it. Austin, I think there must be some 
dreadful secret. What is it ? He comes to our house 
at i)eriods and is closeted with papa, and papa is more 
miserable than ever after it." 

'• Whether there is or not, it is not for us to inquire 
into it. Men engaged in business often have trouble- 
some people to deal with. I hastened you in," he 
quickly went on, not caring to be more explanatory, 
and compelled to speak with reserve. " I know the 
man of old, and his language is sometimes coarse, not 
fitted for a young lady's ears : so I sent you away. 



A PREMATURE AVOWAL. 245 

Florence," he whispered, his tone changing to one of 
deepest tenderness, "this is neither the time nor tlic 
place to speak, but I must say one word. I shall win 
you, if I can." 

Florence made no answer. She only ran downstairs 
as quickly as she could, she and her scarlet cheeks. 
Austin laughed at her haste, as he followed her. Mrs. 
Quale was coming in then, and met them at the door. 

" See what it is to ^o gaddiniir out 1 " cried Austin, 

GOO ' 

to her. " When young ladies pay you the honour of 
u morning visit, they miglit find an empty house, but 
for my stay-at-home propensities." 

Mrs. Quale turned her eyes from one to the other in 
puzzled doubt. 

"The truth i.s," said Austin, vouchsafing an explana- 
tion, "there M'as a rude man in the road, talking 
nonsense, so I sent Miss Hunter indoors, and stopped 
to deal with him." 

" I am sure I am .sorry, Miss Florence," cried un- 
suspicious Mrs. Quale. " We often have rude men in 
this (puirter: they get hold of a drop too much, the 
simpletons. And when the wine's in, the wit'a out, 
you know, mis.s." 

Austin jiiloted her through DaHbdil's Delight, 
]iossibly lest nny more " rude men " should molest her, 
leaving her at her own door. 

But when he came to reflect on what he had done, 
he wa.s full of contrition and self-reproach. The time 



21G A LIFE'S SECRET. 

liad oiot coine for liini to aspire to the hand of 
Florence Hunter; at least in the estimation of the 
world ; and he ought not to have spoken to her. 
There was only one course open to him now in 
honour ; and that was, to tell the whole truth to her 
mother. 

That same evening at dusk he was sitting alone 
with Mrs. Hunter. Mr. Hunter had not returned; 
that he had gone out of town for the day was perfect 
truth : and Florence escaped from the room when she 
heard Austin's knock. 

After taking all tlie l»laiiie on hiiiiseU' for having 
been premature, he proceeded to urge his cause and 
his love, possibly emboldened to do so by the gentle 
kindness with which he was listened to. ^ 

" It has been my hope for years," he avowed, as he 
held Mrs. Hunter's hands in his, and spoke of the 
chance of Mr. Hunter's favour. " Dear Mrs. Hunter, 
do you think he will some time give hci' to me ? " 

"But, Austin " 

"Not yet; I do not ask for her yet; not until I 
have made a fitting home for her,' he impulsively 
continued, anticipating what might have been the 
possible ol)jection of Mrs. Hunter. " With the two 
thousand pounds left to me by Mrs. Thornimett, and 
a little more added to it, whicli I have myself saved, 
I believe T shall be able to make luy way.'' 

"Austin, you will make your way," she replied, in 



A PREMATURE AVOWAL. 247 

tones of the utmost confidence and kindness. " I have 
heard Mr. Hunter himself anticipate a successful career 
for you. Even ^vhen you were, comparatively speak- 
ing, penniless, Mr. Hunter would say that talent and 
energy such as 3'ours could not fail to find their 
proper outlet. Now that you have inherited the 
money, your success is certain. But — I fear you 
cannot win Florence.'' 

The words fell on his heart like an ice-bolt. He 
had reckoned on Mrs. Hunter's countenance, though 
he had not been sure of her husband's. " What do 
you object t«j in me ?" he inquired, in a tone of pain. 
" I am of gentle birth.' 

" Austin, / do not object. I have long seen that 
your coming here so much — and it was Mr. Hunter'.s 
pleasure to have you — was likely to lead to an attacli- 
ment lietweeii you and Florence. Had I objected to 
you, I should have pointed out to Mr. Hunter tliu 
impolicy of your coming. I like joii: there is no one 
in the world to whom 1 wuuld so readily intrust tbo 
happiness of Florence. Other mothers might look for 
a higher alliance fur lier : but, Austin, when Me get 
near the grave, we judge with a judgment nut of tliis 
world. Worldly distinctions lo.se their charm." 

"Then where lies the douljt — the objection?' lie 
a.sked. 

" I once — it is not long ago — bintctl jii tliis to Mr. 
Hunter," she replied. "He wuuK! not luar me out; 



248 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

he would not suft'er iiic to conclude. It was an utter 
impossibility that you could ever marry Florence," 
lie said : " neither was it likely that either of you 
would wish it." 

" But we do wish it ; the love has already arisen," 
he exclaimed, in agitation. " Dear Mrs. Hunter " 

" Hush, Austin ; calm yourself. Mr. Hunter must 
have some private objection. I am sure he has ; 
I could see so far ; and one that, as was evident, he 
did not choose to disclose to me. I never inquire into 
his reasons when I perceive this. You must try and 
forget her." 

A commotion was heard in the hall. Austin went 
out to ascertain its cause. There stood Gwinn, of 
Kettcrford, insisting upon an interview with Mr. 
Hunter. 

Austin contrived to gt-t riil of the man by con- 
vincing him Mr. Hunter was really not at home. 
(Jwinn went out grumbling, promising to be there the 
tirst thing in the morning. 

The interlude had broken up the confidence between 
Austin ami Mis. jlunter; and he went home in 
despondency; but vowing to win hei\ all the same, 
sooner or later. 



( 249 ) 



CHAPTER II. 

MR. COX. 

Time liad gone on. It was a gloomy winters evening. 
Not that, reckoning by the seasons, it couM l>e called 
winter yet; but it was growing near it, and the night 
wa.s dark and sloppy, and blowing and rainy. The 
wind went booming down Daffodil's Delight, sending 
the fierce rain before it in showers, and the pools 
gleamed in the reflected light of the gas-lamjis, as 
wayfarers splashed through them and stirred up their 
muddy waters. 

The luxurious and comfortable in position — those 
at ease in the woild, who could issue their orders to 
attentive tradespeople at their morning's leisure — 
had no m-cessity to bo abrcjad on that inclement 
Saturday night. Not .so Daffodil's Delight; there was 
not much chance (taking it collectively) jof a dinner 
for the morrow, at tlic best; but, unless they went 
abroad, there was none. The men had not gone to 
work yet, and times were bad. 

Down the street, to one particular corner .shop, 



250 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

which had three gilt balls hanging outside it, flocked 
the stream— chiefly females. Not together. They 
lor the most part walked in units, and, some of them 
at least, in a covert sort of manner, keeping in the 
shade of dead walls, and of dark houses, as if not 
caring to be seen. Amongst the latter, stole one mIio 
appeared more especially fearful of being recognized. 
She was a young woman, comely once, but pale and 
hollow-eyed now, her bones too sharp for her skin. 
Well wrapped uj), was she, against the weather; her 
cloth cloak warm, a fur round her neck, and india- 
rubber shoes on her feet. Choosing her time to ap- 
})roach the shop when the coast should be tolerably 
clear, she glanced cautiously in at the window and 
door, and entered. 

Laying upon the counter a small parcel, which she 
carried folded in a handkerchief, she displayed a card- 
board box to the sight of the master, who came for- 
ward to attend to her. It contained a really handsome 
sat of corals, fashioned like those worn in the days 
when our mothers were young ; a necklace of six 
rows of small beads, with a gold snap made to imitate 
a rose, a long coral bead set in it. A pair of gold 
earrings, with large ])endant coral droi)s, lay beside it, 
and a large and hand.somc gold brooch, set likewise 
with corals. 

" What, is it you, Miss Baxendale ? " he exclaimed, 
his tone expressive of some surprise. 



MR. COX 251 

" It is, indeed, Mr. Cox," replied Mary. " We all 
have to bend to these hard times. It's share and 
share alike in them. Will you please to look at these 
jewels ? " 

She tenderly drew aside the cotton which was over 
the trinkets — tenderly and reverently, almost as if a 
miniature live baby were lying there. Very precious 
were they to ^lary. They were dear to her from 
association ; and she also believed them to be of great 
value. 

The pawnbroker glanced at them slightly, carelessly 
liftiuii one of the earring's in his hand, to feel its 
weight. The brooch he honoured with a closer in- 
spection. 

" What do you want upon them i " he asked. 

" Nay," said Mary, " it is not for me to name a sum. 
Wliat will yuu lend ? " 

" You are not accustomed to our business, or you 
would know that we like borrowers to mention their 
own ideas as to sum ; and we give it if we can," he 
rejoined with ready words. " What do you ask ? " 

"If you would let mu have four pounds upon them," 
began Mary, hesitatingly, liut he snai>ped up the 
words. 

"Four pounds' Wliy, Miss Baxendale, you cunt 
know what you are saying The fashion of tliese 
coral tilings is over and dune witli. Th-v air woitli 
next to nothing." 



252 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Mary's heart beat (quicker in its sickness of dis- 
appointment. 

" They are genuine, sir, if you'll please to look. 
The gold is real gold, and the coral is tlie best coral ; 
my poor mother has told me so many a time. Her 
godmother "was a lady, well-to-do in the world, and 
the things were a present from her." 

" If they were not genuine, I'd not lend as many 
pence upon them," -said the man. " With a little 
alteration the brooch might be made tolerably modern ; 
otherwise their value would be no more than old gold. 
In selling them, I " 

" It will not come to that, Mr. Cox," interrupted 
Mary. " Please God spares me a little while — and, 
since the hot weather went out, I feel a bit stronjjer — 
I shall soon redeem tliem." 

Mr. Cox looked at her thin face ; he listened to her 
short breathing; and he drew his own conclusions. 
There was a line of ])ity in his hard face, for he hatl 
long respected Mary Baxendale. 

" By the way the strike seems to be lasting on, 
there doesn't seem much promise of a speedy end to 
it,' ([uoth he, in answer. " I never was so overdone 
with ])ledgcs." 

" My work does not depend upon that," said Mary. 
"Let me get up a little strength, and I shall have a.s 
much work as I can do. And I am well paid, Mr. 
Cox : I have a private connection. 1 am not like the 



MK COX. 253 

poor seamstresses who inakL- skirts for fuurpenco 
a-piece," 

Mr. Cox made no iininediate reply to this, and there 
was a ]iaiise. The open box lay before him. He took 
up the necklace and examined its clasp. 

"I will lend you a sovereign upon them." 

She lifted her face pitiably, and the tears glistened 
in her eyes. 

" It would be of no use to me," she whispered. " I 
want the money for a particular purpose, otherwise I 
should never have brought here these gifts of my 
mother's. She gave them to me the day I was 
eighteen, and I have tenderly kept them from desc- 
cration." 

Poor Mary 1 From desecration ! 

"I have heard her say what they cost; but I forget 
now. I know it was over ten pounds." 

"But the day for this fashion has gone by. To 
a.sk four poinids upon them was ])reposterous ; and 
you would know it to Ijc so, were you acquainted 
with the trade." 

"Will you lend mo two ))ounds, then i" 

TIk- tone was tremblingly eager, the face beseeching 
— a wan face, telling of the coming grave. Possibl}'^ 
tlio thouglit struck tho pawnbroker, and awoke somo 
humanity within him. 

" I shall lose by it, I know, if it comes to a sale. 
I'd not do it for anybody else. Miss Baxcndalc." 



251 A LIFK'S SECRET. 

He proceeJed to write out the ticket, his thoughts 
runuing upon whether — if it did come to a sale — lio 
could not make three pounds by the brooch alone. As 
he was handing he;* the money, somebody rushed in, 
close to the spot occupied by Mary, and dashed down 
a large-sized paper parcel on the counter. She wore 
a 1)lack lace bonnet, wliicli had once been white, 
frayed, and altogether the worse for wear, indepen- 
dently of its dirt. It was tilted on the back of her 
head, displaying a mass of hair in front, half grey, half 
black, and exceedingly in disorder; together with a 
red face. It was Mrs. ])unn. 

" Well, to be sure ! if it's not Mary Baxendale ! I 
thought you was too much of the lady to put youi 
no.se inside a pop-.shop. Don't it go again' the grain ? " 
she ironically added, for she did not appear to be in 
tlie sweetest of tempers. 

" It does indeed, Mrs, Dunn," was the girl's mock 
answer, as she took her money an<l departed. 

" Now then, old Cox, just attend to me," began Mrs. 
Dunn. " I have brought something as you don't get 
offered every day." 

Mr. Cox, accustomed to the scant ceremony bestowed 
upon him by sonic of the ladies of Daftbdil's Delight, 
took the speech with indifference, an<l gave his atten- 
tion to the parcel, from which Mrs. Dunn was rapidly 
taking off the twine. 

" What';> this — silk ? " cried he, as a roll of dress- 



MPv. COX. 255 

silk, brown, cross-barred with gold, came forth to 
view. 

*' Yes, it is silk ; and there's fourteen yards of it ; 
and I want thirty shillings upon it," volubly replied 
Mrs. Dunn. 

He took the silk between his fingers, feeling its 
substance, in his professionally indifferent and dis- 
paraging manner. 

" Where did you get it from ? " ho asked. 

" Where did I get it from ? " retorted Mrs. Dunn. 
" What's that to you ! D'ye think I stole it ? " 

" How do I know ? " returned he. 

" You insolent fellow ! Is it only to-day as you 
have knowed me, Tom Cox ? My name's Hannah 
Dunn ; and I don't want you to testify to my honesty ; 
I can hold up my head in Daffodil's Delight just as 
well as you can — perhaps a little better. Concern 
yourself Avith your own business. I want thirty 
shillings upon that." 

"It isn't worth thirty shillings in the shop, now," 
was the rejoinder. 

" What ? '' shrieked Mrs. Dunn. " It cost three-and- 
fourpence halfpenny a-yard, every yard of it, ami 
there's fourteen of 'em, T trll 3'ou." 

" I don't care if it cost .six-and-fonrponcc halfpenny ; 
itfn not worth more than I say. I'll lend you ten 
.shillings upon it, and I .should lose then." 

"Where do you expect to go to when you die i'* 



256 A LIFE'S SKCRET. 

deinaneletl Miu Dunn, in tones tliat might bo liearj 
half over the length and breadth of Daffodil's Delight. 
" T wouldn't tell such lies for the paltiy sake of grind- 
ing folks down ; no, not if you made me a duchess 
to-morrow for it.' 

" Here, take the silk otK I have not got time to 
bother: it's Saturday night." 

He swept the parcel, silk, paper, and string, towards 
her, and was turning away. She leaned over the 
counter and seized upon him. 

" You want a opposition in the place, that's what 
you want, Master Cox ! You have been cock o' the 
walk over Daffodil's Delight so long, that you think 
you can treat folks as if they was dirt. You be 
overdone with business, that's what you be ; you're 
a-making gold as fast as the}' makes it in Aurstraliar; 
we shall have you a-setting up your tandem next. 
What'U you give me upon that silk ? " 

" I'll give you ten .shillings ; I have said so. Y<ju 
may take it or not ; it's at your own o])tion." 

More contending: but the pawnbroker was tiiin ; 
and Mrs. Dunn was forced to accept the offer, or else 
take away her silk. 

"J Tow long is this strike going to last ?" he asked, 
as he made out the duplicate. 

The words excited the ira.scibility of Mrs. Dunn. 

" Strike ! " she uttered, in a flaming passion. " Who 
dares to call it a .strike ? It's not a strike ; it's a lock- 
out." 



MR. COX. 257 

" Lock-out, then. Tlic two things couie to the 
same, don't they ? Is there a chance of its coming to 
an end ? " 

" No, they don't come to the same," .slirieked Mrs. 
Dunn. "A strike's what it i.s — a strike; a act of 
iioljle independence whicli the British workman may 
be proud on. A lock-out is a nast}'", mean, overbearing 
tyranny on tlie part of tlic masters. Now, old Cox ! 
call it a strike again." 

"But I hear the masters' shops are open again — fur 
anybody to go to work that likes," replied Mi-. Cox, 
quite imperturbable, 

" They be open for slaves to go to work, not for 
freeborn men," retorted Mrs. Dunn, her shrieking voice 
at a still higher pitch. "I hope the men '11 hold out 
for ever, I do ! I hope the masters '11 be drove, every 
one of 'em, into the dust and dregs of the bankruptcy 
court ! I hope their sticks and stones '11 be sold up, 

down to their children's cradle.s " 

" There, that's enough," interposed the pawnbroker, 
as he handed her what he had to give. " You'll be 
collecting a crowd round the door, if you go on like 
that. Here's somebody else waiting for your place." 

It wa.s Mrs. Check, an especial friend of the lady 
now being dismissed. Mrs. Cheek was carefully 
carrying a ba.skot which contained various chimney 
ornaments — pretty enough in their places, but not of 
much value. The pawnbroker, after some haggling, 

A Llfe'« Secret. 17 



258 A LIFIVS RF/'RKT. 

not so iutemperatcly carried on as the bargain just 
concluJod, advanced six shillings on tlicm. 

" I had wanted twelve/' she said ; " and I can't do 
with less." 

"I am willing to lend it," returned he, "if you bring 
goods accordingly." 

' I have stripped the place of a'niost all the light 
things as can l)C .spared," said Mrs. Cheek. "One 
doesn't care to begin upon the heavy furniture and 
the necessaries." 

" Is there no chance of the pi'csent state of affairs 
coming to an end ? " inquired Mr. Cox, putting the 
same question to which he had not received a direct 
answer from i[rs. Dunn. " The men can go back to 
work if they like ; the masters' yards are open again." 

" Open ! " returned Mrs. Cheek, in a guttural tone, 
as .she threw back her head in disdain ; " they have 
been open some time, if you call that opening *em. If 
a man likes to go as a sneaking coward, and work 
upon the tenns offered now, knuckling down to the 
masters, and putting his hand to their mean old odious 
document, severing liim.self from the Union, he can do 
it. Tt ain't many of our men as you'll find do that 
dirty work. If my husband was to attempt it, I'd be 
ready to skin him alive." 

" But the men have gone back in some parts of the 
metropolis." 

" ^f^'n, do 3'ou call 'em. A few may ; one black 



MR. COX. 259 

sheep out of a flock. They ain't men, they are half- 
castes. Lot them look to theirselves," concluded Mrs, 
Check significantly, as she quitted the pawnbroker's 
hhop with a fling, 

At the butcher's stall, a few paces further on, she 
came up to Mi*s. Dunn, who was standing in tlie glare 
of the blazing gaslight, in the incessant noise of the 
" Bu)', buy, buy ! what'll 3'ou buy ? " Not less than 
a dozen women were congregated there, elbowing each 
other, as they turned over the scraps of meat set out 
for sale in small heaps — sixpence the lot, a shilling 
the lot, according to quality and quantity. In the 
prosperous time, when their husbands were in full 
work, these ladies had scornfully disdained such heaps 
on a Saturday night. They had been wont then to 
buy a good joint for the Sunday's dinner. One of the 
women nudged another in her vicinity, directing her 
attention to the inside of the shop. " Just twig 
Mother Shuck ; .she's a-being served, I hope ! " 

" Mother Shuck," Slippery Sam's better-half, was 
making her purchases in the agreeable conKdence of 
pos.se.ssing money to pay for them — liver and bacon 
for the present evening's supper, and a breast of veal, 
to be served with savoury herbs, for the morrow's 
dinner. In the old times, whih; the throng of women 
now outside had been able to make the same or similar 
purchases, slic had hovered without like a hungry 
hyena, hanging over the cheap portions with covetous 



260 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

eyes and fingers, as many another poor wife had done, 
whose husband could not or would not work. Times 
were chanf:jed. 

" I can't afford nothing, hardly, I can't," grumbled 
Mrs, Cheek. " What's the good of six shillings for a 
Saturday night, when everything's wanted, from the 
rent down to a potater ? The young 'uns have got 
their bare feet upon the boards, as may be said, for 
their shoes be without toes and heels ; and who is to 
get 'em others ? I wish that Cox was a bit juster. 
He's a getting rich upon our spoils. Six shillings for 
that lot as I took him in ' " 

" I wish he was smothered ! " struck in Airs. Dunn. 
"He took and asked me if I'd stole the silk. It was 
that lovely silk, you know, as I was fool enough to go 
and choose the week of the strike, on the strength of 
the good times a-coming. We have had something 
else to do since, instead of making up silk gownds." 

" The good times ain't come yet," said Mrs. Cheek, 
shortly. " I wish the old 'uns was back again, if we 
could get *em without stooping to the masters." 

" It was at the shop where Mary Ann and Jemimar 
deals, when they has to get in things for their 
customers' work," resumed Mrs. Dunn, continuin*' the 
subject of the silk. " I .shouldn't have had credit at 
any other place. Fourteen yards I bought of it, and 
three-and-fourpence halfpenny I gave for every yard 
of it; I <lid, I protest to you, Elizar Cheek; and that 



MU. COX. 261 

swindling old scicwliad the conscience to offer me ten 
shillings for the whole ! " 

" Is the silk paid for ? " 

" Paid for !" wrathfully repeated Mrs. Dunn ; " ha.s 
it been a time to pay for silk gownds when our 
husbands be under a lock-out ? Of course it's not paid 
for, and the shop's a-beginning to bother for it ; Init 
they'll be none the nearer getting it. I say, master, 
what'll you weigh in these fag-ends of mutton and 
beef at — the two together ? " 

It will be readily understood, from the above con- 
versation and signs, that in the several weeks that 
had elapsed since the commencement of the lock-out, 
things, socially speaking, had been going backwards. 
The roast goose and other expected luxuries had not 
come yet. The masters' yards were open — open to 
any who would go to work in them, provided they 
renounced all connection with the Trades' Unions. 
Dafibdil's Delight, taking it collectively, would not 
have this at any price, and held out. 

The worst aspect in tlic atl'air — I jufuii for the 
interest of the men — was, that strange workmen were 
assciiiMiiig from different parts of the country, acccjit- 
ing the work which thoy refused. Of course this 
feature in the dispute was most bitter to the men; 
I hoy lavished their abuse upon the masters for em- 
ploying strange hands; and tliey would have been 
glad to lavish .something worst than aUise upon the 



^62 A LIFE'S SKCRET. 

hands themselves. One of the master?: compared thcni 
to the fable of the dog in the manger — they would 
not take the work, and they would not let (by their 
good will) any one else take it. Incessant agitation 
was maintained. Tlie workmen were in a sufficiently 
excited state, as it was ; and, to help on that which 
need not have been helped, the agents of the Trades' 
Union kept the ball rolling — an incendiary ball, urging 
obstinacy and spreading discontent. But this little 
history has not so much to do with the political 
phases of the unhappy dispute, as with its social 
effects. 

As Mary Baxcndale was returning home from the 
pawnbroker's, she passed Mrs. Dar]»y, who was stand- 
ing at her own door looking at the weather. " Mary, 
girl," was the salutation, " this is not a night for you 
to l)c abroad." 

" I was obliged to go," ^^'as the reply. " How are 
the children?" 

*' Come in and see them," said Mrs. Darby. 

She led the way into a back-room, which, at the 
first glance, seemed to be covered with mattresses and 
children. A large family had Robert Darby — indeed, 
it was a complaint prevalent in Daffodil's Delight. 
They were of various ages; these, lying on the 
mattresses, six of them, were from four to twelve 
years. The elder ones were not at home. The room 
had p close, unhealthy .smell, which struck especially 



MR. COX. 2G3 

on the senses of Mary, rendered sensitive from 
illness. 

" What have you got theui all in tliis room for ? " 
she exclaimed, in the impulse of the moment. 

" I have given up the rooms above," was Mrs. 
Darby's reply. 

'• But — when the children were ill — was it a time to 
give up rooms ? " debated Mary. 

*' No," replied Mrs. Darby, who spoke as if she were 
heart-broken, in sad, subdued tones, the very reverse 
of Mesdames Dunn and Cheek. "But how could we 
keep on the top rooms when avc were unable to get 
together the rent to pay for them ? I spoke to the 
landlord, and he is letting the back-rent stand a bit, 
not to sell us up ; and I gave up to him the two top 
rooms ; and we all sleep in here together." 

" I wish the men would go Ijack to work ! " said 
Mary, with a sigh. * 

" Mary, my heart's just failing within me," said 
Mrs. Darlty, her tone a sort of wail. " Here's winter 
coming on, and all of tlicm out of work. If it were 
not for my daughter, who is in service, and brings us 
her wages as she gets them, I believe we .^liould just 
have starved. I must have medicine f t tin- cliildreu, 
though we go without bread." 

" It is not medicine they want : it is ndiirislimunt," 
said Mary. 

" It is both. Nourishment would liave done when 



2C4 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

they were first ailing, but now that it lias turned ti) 
low fever, they must have nietlicine, or it will grow 
into typhus. It's Lark they have to take, and it 
costs " 

"Mother! mother!" struck up a plaintive voice, 
that of the eldest of the children lying there, " I want 
more of that nice drink !" 

" I have not got it, Willy. You know that you 
had it all. Mrs. Quale brought nie round a pot of 
black-currant jelly," she explained to Mary, " and I 
poured boiling water on it to make drink. Their 
little parched throats did so relish it, poor things." 

Mary knelt on the floor and put her liand on the 
child's moist brow. He was a pretty boy ; fair and 
delicate, with light curls falling round his face. A 
gentle, thoughtful, intelligent boy he had ever been, 
Init less healthy than some. "You are thirsty, 
Willy?" 

He opened his heavy eyelids, and the large round 
blue eyes glistened with fever, as they were lifted to 
see who 8[)oke. 

" How do you do, Mary?" he meekly said. "Yes, 
1 am so thirsty. Mother said perhaps she .should 
liavc a sixpence to-night to buy a ])ot of jelly like 
Mrs. Quale's." Mrs. Darby coloured slightly; she 
thought Mai-y mu.'^t nlKct on the extravagance 
implied. Sixpence for jelly, when they were wanting 
money for a loaf ! 



MR. COX. 266 

" I Jid .say it to liini," she whispered, as .slie was 
quitting' the room with Mary. "I thought I might 
spare a sixpence out of what Darby got from the 
society. But I can't; I can't. Tliere's .so many 
things we cannot do without, unless we just give uj* 
and lie down and don't even try at keeping body 
and soul together. Rent, and coals, and candles, and 
soap; and we must eat something. Darb}', too, of 
course he wants a trifle for beer and tobacco. Mar}-, 
I say I am just heart-faint. If the poor boy should 
die, it'll be upon my mind for ever, that the drink he 
craved for in his last illness couldn't be got for him." 

" Does he crave for it ? " 

" Nothing was ever like it. All day lung it has 
been his sad, pitiful cry. ' Have you got the jelly 
yet, mother ? Oh, mother, if I could but have the 
drink ! ' " 

As Mary went through the front-room, Robert 
Darby was in it thou. HU chin rested on his hands, 
his elbows were on the table; altogether he looked 
Very downhearted. 

' I have been to see Willy," she cried. 

"Ah, poor little cliap ! " It was all he said; but 
the tone implied moi-e. 

"Tilings seem to l)e grtting pretty low with us all. 
i wish theit' Could be a change," continued Mnjy. 

" How can there be, while the masters and tli.^ 
Unions are at loggerheads {" he asked " Us men be 



2CG A LIFE'S SECRET. 

between the two : and between the two we come to 
tlie ground. It's like sitting on two stools at once." 

^laiy proceeded to the shop where jelly was sold, 
nil oilnian'.s, bought a sixpenny pot, and took it back 
to Mrs. Darby's, handing it in at the door. " Why 
(lid you do it, Mary ? " came the remonstrance. " You 
cannot afford it." 

" Yes, I can. Give it to Willy, with my love." 

" He will only be out of a w'orld of care, if God does 
take him," sighed Mary to herself, as she bent her 
steps homeward. " Oh, father ! " she continued aloud, 
encountering John Baxendale at their own gate, " I 
wi.sh this sad state of things could be ended. There's 
the poor little Darbys worse instead of better. They 
are all lying in one room, down with fever." 

" God help us, if fever should come ! " was the reply 
of John Baxendale. 

" It is not catching fever yet. They have given up 
their top chambers, and arc all sleeping in that Itack- 
room. Poor Willie craved for a bit of jelly, and Mrs. 
Darby could not get it him." 

" Better crave for that tlian for worse things," 
returned John Baxendale. "I am just a-walking 
about here, becau.se I can't bear to stop indoors. I 
can't pay the rent, and the things must go." 

*' No, father, they need not. He .said if you wouM 
got up two pounds towards it, he would give time for 
the re.st. If " 



MR. COX. 2G7 

" Two pounds ! " ejaculated John Baxendale, " where 
am I to get two i)Ound.s from ? Borrow of them that 
have been provident, and so are better off, in this 
distress, than me ? No, that I never will." 

ilary opened her hand, and disjdayed two sovereigns 
held in its palm. They sparkled in the gaslight. 
" The money is my own, father. Take it." 

A sudden revulsion of feeling came over Baxendale 
— he seemed to have passed from despair to hope. 

" Child," he gently said, " did an angel send it ? " 

And Mary, w^orn with weakness, with long-con- 
tinued insufficient food, sad with the distress around 
her, burst into tears, and, bending lier head upon nis 
arm, sobbed aloud. 



208 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER III. 

"I THINK 1 HAVE ju:i;\ a fool." 

Tin: Shucks had a supper-party. On this same 
Saturday night, wlien tlic wind was blowing outside, 
and tlie rain was making the streets into pools, two 
or three friends had dropped into Sam Shuck's — 
idlers like Sam himself — and were hospitably invited 
to remain. Mrs. Sliuck was beginning to fry the 
liver and bacon she had just brought in, with the 
ftccompanimont of a good peck of onions, and Sam 
and liis friends were staying their appetites witli 
])ipes and porter. When Mary Baxendale and her 
father cntcret] — Mary having lingered a minute 
outride, until her emotion had passed, and her eyes 
wore dry — they cjuM .scarcely find their way across 
the kitchen, what with the clouds from the pipes, and 
the smoke from the frying-pan. There was a great 
deal of laughter going on. Prosperity had not yet 
cau.scd the Shucks to changt; their residence for a 
Itetter one. Perhaps that was to come* but Sam'.s 
natural improvidence stood in the way of much 
change. 



«I THINK I HAVE BEEN A FOOL." 2G9 

" You are merry to-night," observed Mary, by way 
of being sociable. 

" It's merrier inside nor out, a- wading through tlie 
puddles and the sharp rain," replied Mrs. Shuck, 
without turning round from her emiiloyment. " It's 
some'at new to see you out such a niglit as tliis, Mar}' 
Baxendale ! Don't you talk aliout folks wanting 
sense again." 

" I don't know that I ever do talk of it," was the 
inoffensive reply of Mary, as she followed her father 
up the stairs. 

Mi*s. Baxendale was hushing a bab}- when they 
entered their room. She looked very cross. The 
best-tempered will do so, under the long-con- 
tinued embarrassment of empty purses and empty 
stomachs. 

" Who has been spreading it up and down the place 
that ive are in trouble about the rent ? " she aliruptly 
demanded in no plca.sant voice. "That giil of Ryan's 
was here just now — Judy. She knew it, it st'cins, 
and she didn't forget to speak of it. Mary, what a 
simpleton you are, to be out in tliis rain ! " 

" Never mind who speaks of the rent, Mrs. Baxen- 
dale, so long as it can be ])aid," .said Mary, sitting 
down in the first chair to recover her brcatb, after 
mounting the stairs. " Father \h going to manage it, 
so that we shan't have tiny trouble at present. It's 
all right." 



270 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" lluw ever luivt' you contrived it ? " JenianJcd Mrs, 
Biixciulale of licr liusbaiul, in a changed tone. 

"Mary has contrived it — not I. She has just put 
two pounds into my hand. Where did you get it, 
child?" 

" It does not signify your knowing that, father." 

'• If I don't know it, I shan't uso the money," he 
answered, shortl}-. 

'■ Why, surely, ftither, you can trust me ! " ahe re- 
joined. 

" That is not it, Mary," said Jolin Baxendale. " I 
don't like to use borrowed money, unless I know wlio 
it has been borrowed from." 

" It was not borrowed, in your sense of the word, 
father. I have only done what you and Mrs. Baxen- 
dale have l)een doing lately. I pledged that set of 
coral ornaments of my mother's. Had you forgotten 
them ? " 

" "Why, yes, I had furgut 'em," cried he. " Coral 
ornaments ! I declare they had as much slipped my 
memory, as if she had never po.ssessed them." 

" Cox would only lend inc two pounds upon them. 
Father, I hope I shall some time get them redeemed." 

John Baxendale made no reply. He turned to pace 
the small room, evidently in deep thought. Mary, her 
poor short breath gathered again, took off her wet 
cloak and bonnet. Presentl}-, Mrs. Baxendale pi;t Hie 
loaf upon the table, and some cold potatoes. 



"1 THINK I HAVE BEEN A FOOL." 271 

"Couldn't you liavc brought in a sausage or two 
for yourself, Mary, or a red herring ? " she said. '* You 
had a shilling in your pocket." 

" I can eat a potato," .said ^larv ; '• it dun't nuicli 
matter about me." 

'• It matters al)0ut us all, I think," cried Mrs. Baxen- 
dale. " What a delicious smell of onions ! " she added 
in a parenthesis. " Them Shucks have the luck of it 
just now. Us, and the children, and 3'ou, arc threo 
parts starved — I know that, Mary. We may weather 
it — it's to be hoped we shall ; but it will just kill you." 

" No, it shan't," said John Baxendalo, turning to 
them with a strangely stern decision marked upon his 
countenance. " This night has decided me, and I'll go 
and do it.", 

" Go and do what ? " exclaimed his wife, a sort of 
fear in her tone. 

"I'll go to WORK, please God, Monday morning 
comes," he said with emphasis. " The thought lias 
been hovering in my mind this week past." 

" It's just the thing you ought to have done weeks 
ago," observed Mrs. Baxendalc. 

" You never said it." 

" Not I. It's best to let men come to tlieir senses 
of their own accord. You mostly act by the rules of 
contrar}', you men ; if I had advised your going to 
work next Monday morning, you'd just have stopped 
away." 



272 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Passing over this conjugal compliment in silence, 
John Baxenclale descended the stairs. He possessed a 
large share of the open honesty of the genuine English 
workman. He disdained to do things in a corner. It 
would not suit him to return to work the cominjr 
^londay morning on what might be ealle<l " the sly ; " 
he preferred to act openly, and to declare it to the 
Trades' Union previously, in the person of their pair I 
agent, Sam Shuck. This he would do at once, and 
for that purpose entered the kitchen. 

The first instalment of the supper was just served ; 
wliieh was accomplished by means of a tin dish placed 
on the table, and the contents of the frying-pan 
being turned unceremoniously into it. Sam and the 
company deemed the liver and bacon were best .served 
liot and hot, so they set themselves to eat, whilst Mrs. 
Shuck continued to fry. 

" I have got just a word to axy, Shuck ; I shan't 
disturb you," began John Baxendale. But Shuck 
interrupted him. 

" It's of no use, Baxendale, your remonstratinjr 
about the short allowance. Tliiuk of tlie many 
mouths there is to feed. It's hard times, we all know, 
thanks to the masters ; but our duty, ay, and our 
pride too, must lie in putting up with them, like 
men." 

" It's not very hard times with you, at any rate," 
6aid John Baxendale, sniffing involuntarily the savoury 



"I TIIIXK I HAVE BKKN A FOOL." 273 

odour, and watching the tempting morsels consumed. 
" My business here is not to remonstrate at anything, 
but to inform you tliat I shall resume work on 
Monday." 

The announcement took .Sam by surprise. Ho 
dropped the knife with which he was cutting the liver, 
held upon his bread — for the repast was not served 
fashionably, with a full complement of plates and 
dishes— and stared at Baxcndale. 

" What ' " he uttered. 

" I have had enousjh of it. 1 shall t;o back on 
Monday morning." 

" Are you a fool, Baxcndale ? Or a knave ? " 

" Sometimes I think I must be a fool," was the 
reply, given without irritation. " Leastways, I have 
wondered lately whether I am or not : when there 
has been full work and full wages to be had for the 
asking, and I have not asked, but have kt my 
wife and children and Mary go down to starvation 
point." 

"You have been holding out for principle," remon- 
strated Sam. 

" I know ; and ])rirK'i|ile is a very go:)d thing when 
you are sure its the riglit principli-. Uut flesh ami 
Ijlood can't stand out for ever." 

"After standing out a.s long as this, Id try and 
stand out a bit longer," cried Sam. " You must, 
Baxcndale* you can't turn traitor now." 

A Llf«'e Sttiil. 18 



274 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" You say ' a bit ' longer, Sam Sliuck. It lias been 
'a bit longer,' and 'a bit longer,' for some time past; 
but the bit doesn't come to any ending. There's no 
more chance of the masters coming to, than there was 
at first, but a great deal les.s. The getting of these 
men from the country ^vill render them independent 
of us. What is to become of us then ? " 

" Rubbish ! " said Sam Shuck. " The masters must 
come to : they can't stand against the Unions. 
Because a .sprinkling of poor country workmen have 
thrust in their noses, and the ma.sters are keeping 
open their works on the show of it, is that a reason 
why we should knuckle down ? They are doing it to 
frighten us." 

" Look here," said Baxcndale. " 1 have two women 
and two children on my hands, and one of the women 
is next door to the grave ; I am threatened — yoil 
know it, Sam Shuck — with a lodging for them in the 
street next week, because I have not been able to pay 
the rent ; I have parted by selling and pledging, with 
nearly all there is to part with, of my household 
goods. There was what they call a Bible reader 
round last week, and he says, pleasantly, ' Why don't 
you kneel down and ask God to consider your con- 
dition, ]\Ir. Baxendale ? ' Very good. But how can I 
do that? Isn't it just a mockery for me to pray for 
help to provide for me and mine ? If God was 
pleased to answer us in words, would not the answer 



"I THINK I HAVE Bi:i:x A fool;' 275 

be, ' There is Avork, and to spare ; you have only gob 
to do it ? ' " 

" Well, that's grand," put in one of Sam's guests, 
most of Avhom had been staring -with open mouths. 
" As if folks asked God about such things as tliis ! " 

" Since my late ^vife died, I have thought about it 
more than I used to," said Baxendale, simply, " and I 
have got to see that there's no good to be done in 
anytliing without it. But how can I in reason ask 
for help now, wlien I don't help myself? The work 
is ready to my hand, and I don't take it. So, Sam 
my mind's made up at last. You'll tell the Union." 

" No, I shan't. You won't go to work." 

" You'll see. I shall be glad to go. I haven't had 
a proper meal this " 

" You'Jl til ink better of it between now and Monday 
morning," interrupted Sam, drowning the Murds. 
" I'll have a talk with 30U to-morrow. Have a hit of 
supper, Baxendale ?" 

" No, thank ye. I didn't cume in to eat y<nir 
victuals," he added, moving to the door. 

'■ We have got plenty," said Mrs. Sluiek, turning 
round from the frying-pan. "Here, eat it ujistairs, if 
you won't stop, Baxendale." 

She took out a slice of liver and of bacon, and 
handed them to him on a saucer. What a temj)tation 
it was to the man, sick with hunger: lln\ve\er, ho 
was about to refuse, when he thought of Marv. 



27G A LIFK't^ SKCRKT. 

"Thank 3-0, Mrs. Shuck. I'll take it, then, if you 
can spare it. Tt will be a treat to Mar}." 

Like unto tlie appearance of water in the desert to 
tlie parched and exhausted traveller was the sight of 
that saucer of meat to Mary. Terribly did slie often 
crave for it. John Baxendale positively refused to 
touch any ; so Mary divided it into two portions, 
giving one to Mrs. Baxendale. Tlic woman's good- 
nature — her sense of Mary's condition — would have 
led her to refuse it ; but she was not quite made u\) 
of self-denial, and she felt faint and sinking. John 
Baxendale cut a thick slice of bread, rnbbed it over 
the remains of gravy in the saucer, and ate that. 
"Please God, this shall have an end," he mentplly 
repeated. " I think I have l>een a fool ! " 

Mr. Hunter's yard — as it was familiarly caUed in 
the trade — was open just as were other yard.s, though 
as yet he had very few men at work in it; in fact, so 
little was doing that it was almost equivalent to a 
standstill. Mr. Hcniy Hunter was better off. A 
man of energy, determined to stand no non.sense, as 
he himself expressed it, he had gcjne down to country 
places, and engaged many handa 

On the Monday following the above Saturday night, 
John Baxendale ])resonted himself to Austin Clay, and 
requested to l>e taken on again. Au.'stin complied at 
once, glad to do so, and told the man he was wi.se to 
come back to work. Mr. Hunter was not at bu.siiiesa 



'•1 THINK I llAVK J'.KKN A Inoi,." -j;? 

that day; "too unwell to leave home ' wa.s the 
message carried to Austin ('lav. In the ovoninfj. 
Austin went to the house: as was usual when ^Ir. 
Hunter did not make his appearance at the Avorks 
in the day. Florence was alone when he entered. 
Evidently in distress; though she strove to hide it 
from him ; to turn it off with ga\' looks and light 
words. But he noted the signs. 

" What is your grief, Florence ? " he- asked, speaking 
in earnest tones of sympathy. 

It caused the tears to come forth again. Au.stin 
took her hands and drew her to him, as either a lover 
or a brother might have done, leaving her to take it 
as .she pleased. 

" Let me share it, Florence, whatever it may be." 

" It is nothing more than usual," she answered ; 
"but somehow my spirits are low this evening. I try 
to bear up bravely; and I <lo bear up: Imt, indeed, 
this is an unhappy home. Mamma is sinking fast; 1 
see it daily. While papa " 

But for the abrupt pause, she would have brnkt-n 
down. Austin tm-ned away : he did not choo.se that 
she should enter upon any subject connected with Mr. 
Hunter. 

This time Florence would not be checked : as she 
liad been hitherto. " Austin, I cannot bear it any 
longer. What is it that is overshadowing papa ? " she 
continued, her voice, her whole manner full of «lread. 



878 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" I am sure that some misfortune liangs over tho 
house." 

"I wisli I could take you out of it," was the 
impulsive and not very relevant answer. " I can tell 
you r.othing, Florence," lie concluded more soberly. 
" Mr. Hunter has many cares in business ; but tho 
cares are his own." 

" Austin, is it kind of you to try to put me off so ? 
I can bear reality, whatever it may be, better than 
suspense. It is for papa I grieve. See how ill he 
is ! And yet he has no ailment of body, only of 
mind. Nif^ht after night ho paces his room, never 
sleeping." 

" How do 3'oii know that ?" Austin inquired. 

"Because I listen to it." 

" You should not do so," 

"I cannot lulp listening to him. How is it 
possible? His room is near mine, and when his 
foot.steps are .sounding in it, in the midnight .silence, 
hour after hour, my ears grow sensitively quick. 1 
say that, loving him, I cannot help it. Sometimes 1 
think that if I only know the causo, tho nature of 
Ids sorrow, I might .soothe it — perha]^s hol[) to re- 
move it." 

"As if young ladies could ever help or remove the 
cares of business !" he cried, speaking light!}'. 

" J mil not a chiM, vVustin," she resumed : " it is not 
kind of you to make ])rctonce that 1 am, anJ try to 



"I THINK I HAVE BEEN A FOOL." 279 

put me oft' as one. Papa's trouble is not connected 
with business, and I am sure you know that as well 
as I do. Will you not tell me what it is ? " 

" Florence, you can have no grounds for a.ssuming 
that I am cognizant of it." 

"I feel very sure that you are. Can you suppose 
that I should otherwise speak of it to you ? " 

" I say that you can have no grounds for the sup- 
position. By what do you so judge ? " 

"By signs," .she answered. " I can read it in your 
countenance, your actions. I was pretty sure of it 
before that day when you sent me hastily into your 
rooms, lest I should hear what the man Gwinn was 
about to say; but I have been fully sure since. AVhat 
he would have said related to it ; and, in some way, 
the man is connected with the ill. Besides, you have 
been on confidential terms w'dh papa for years." 

" On business matters only : not on i>rivate ones. 
My dear Florence, I must request you to let this 
subject cease, now and always, I know nothing of 
its nature from your father ; and if my own thoughts 
liavo in any way strayed towards it, it is not fitting 
tliat I .should give utterance to them." 

" Tell me one thing: could I be of any .soi-vicc, in 
any way ? " 

" Hush, Florence," he uttered, as if the words had 
struck upon some painful chord. " The only service 
you can rcn<ler is, liy taking no notice of it, ]^o not 



280 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

think of it if you can help ; do not alhulo to it to your 
mother." 

" I never do," she interrupted. 

" That is well." 

" You have sometimes .said you cared for me." 

"Well ?" ho rejoined, determined to he as contrary 
as he could. 

"If you did, you would not leave mo in this sus- 
pense. Only tell me the nature of papa's trouble, 
I will not ask further." 

Austin gathered his wits together, thinking what 
plea he should invent. " It is a debt, Florence. Your 
papa contracted a debt many years ago ; he thought 
it was paid ; but by some devilry — pardon the word ; 
I forgot I was talking to you — a lawyer, Gwinn, of 
Ketterford, has proved that it was not paid, and lie 
comes to press for instalments of it. That is all I 
know. And now you must give me your promise not 
to sj)cak of this. I'll never tell you anything more if 
you do." 

Florence had listened attentively, an«l was sati.sfied. 

" I will never speak of it," she said. " I think I 
understand it now. Papa fears lie .shall have no 
fortune left for me. Oh, if he only knew " 

"Hush, Florence!" came the warning whi.sper, for 
Mrs. Hunter was standing at the door. 

" Is it you, Austin ? I heard voices here, and 
wondered who had come in.'* 



"I THINK I HAVE BEEN A FOOL." 281 

" How are you, dear Mrs. Hunter ? " lie said to hor 
as she entered. " Better, this evening ? " 

" Not better," was Mrs, Hunter's answer, as .she 
retained Austin's hand, and drew him on tlie sofa 
beside her. " Tliere will be no 'better ' for me in this 
world. Austin, I wish I could have gone from it 
under happier circumstances. Florence, I hear your 
papa calling." 

" If you are not happy in the prospect of the future, 
who can be ? " murmured Austin, as Florence left the 
room. 

" I spoke not of my.self. ^ly concern is for Mr. 
Hunter. Austin, I would give every hour of my 
remaining days to know what terrible grief it is that 
has been so long upon him." 

Austin was silent. Had Mrs. Hunter ami Florence 
entered into a compact to annoy him ? 

" It has been like a dark .shadow upon our house for 
years. Florence and I have kept silence upon it to 
him, and to each other ; to him we dare nut speak, to 
each other we would not. Latterly it has seemed .so 
much worse, that I was forced to whisper of it to In r : 
I could not keep it in ; the silence was killing nic 
We both agree that you are in his confidence; if so, 
perhaps you will .satisfy me ? " 

Austin Clay felt himself in a dilemma. !{<■ couM 
not speak of it in the light manner he had sjjokfn to 
Florence, or so caa'elessly put olf Mrs. Hunter. 



282 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

"I am not in Lis confidence, indeed, Mrs. Hunter," 
he broke forth, glad to be able to say so much. " That 
I have observed the signs you speak of in Mr. Hunter, 
liis embarrassment, his grief " 

" Say his fear, Austin." 

"His fear. That I have noticed this it would be 
vain to deny. But, Mrs. Hunter, I a.ssure you he 
lias never given me his confidence ujton the subject. 
Quito the contrary ; he has particularly shunned it 
with me. Of course I can give a very shrewd guesjj 
at the cause — ho is pressed for mone}-. Times are 
bad ; and M-hen a man of Mr. Hunter's thoughtful 
temperament begins to be really anxious on the score 
of money matters, it shows itself in various ways." 

Mrs. Hunter quitted the subject, perhaps partially 
reas-sured ; at any rate convinced that no end would 
be answered by continuing it. "I wa.s mistaken, I 
suppo.se," she said, with a sigh. "At least you can 
tell me, Austin, how business is going on. How will 
it go on ? " 

Very grave turned Austin's face now. This was 
an open evil — one to be openly luot and grappled 
with ; and what his countenance gained in seriousness 
it lost in annoyance. " I really do not sec how it will 
go on," was his rei)ly, " unless we can get to work 
soon. I want to speak to Air. Hunter. Can 1 .see 
him ?" 

" Hi' will bo in directly. He has not been dow[i 



"I THINK I HAVE BEEN A FOOL." 283 

to-day yet. But I suppose you will wish to see hiui 
in private ; I know ho and you like to be alone -when 
you talk upon business matters." 

For the moment it was expedient that Mrs. Hunter, 
at any rate, should not be present, if she was to be 
spared annoyance ; for Mr. Hunter's aflairs were grow- 
ing ominous. This was chiefly owing to the stoppage 
of works in process, and partly to the effect of a 
diminished capital. Austin as yet did not know all 
the apprehension, for Mr. Hunter contrived to keep 
some of it from him. That the diminished capital was 
owing to Gwinn, of Ketterford, Austin did know; at 
least, his surmises amounted to certainty. \Vhen a 
hundred pounds, or perhap.s two hundred pound.s, 
mysteriously went out, and Austin was not made ac- 
quainted with the destination of the money, he drew 
his own conclusions. 

"Are the men not learning the error of their course 
yet?" Mrs. Hunter resumed. 

" They .seem further from learning it than ever. One 
of them, indeed, came baek to-<lay : Baxendale." 

"I felt sure he would be amongst the first to do .so. 
He is a sen.sible man : how he came to hoM out at all, 
is to mo a matter ofsurpri.se." 

" He told mc this morning, when he came and askt<l 
to bo taken on again, that ho wishc*! ho never had 
luld out," said Austin. "Mary is non<' tlic bctti.-r 
for it." 



284 A LIFK'S SI-X'UET. 

"Mary was here today," remarked Mrs. Hunter. 
" She caino to say tliat sho was better, and could do 
some work if I had any. I fear it is a deceitful ini- 
provoment. She is terribly thin and wan. No; this 
state of things must have been bad for her. Sho 
looks as if she were half famished." 

" She only lov>ks what sho is," said Austin. 

" Oh, Austin ! I should have been so thankful to 
help her to strengthening food during this scarcity," 
Mrs. Hunter exclaimed, the tears rising in her eyes. 
" But I have not dared. You know what Mr. Hunter's 
opinion is — that the men have brought it upon them- 
selve.s, and that to help their families, only in the 
least degree, would be encouraging them to hold out, 
and would tend to prolong the contest. He positively 
forbade me helping any of them : ami I could only 
obey. I have ke[)t indoors as much as possible, that 
I might avoid the sight of distress which I must not 
relieve. But I ordered Mary a good meal here this 
morning : Mr. Hunter did not object to that. Here 
he is." 

Mr. Hunter entered, leaning upon Florence. He 
looked an old man, rather than one of middle-age. 

"Baxendale is back, sir," Austin ob.served, after a 
few words on business matters had passed in an under- 
tone. 

" Come to his senses at last, has he ? " cried Mr. 
Hunter. 



''1 THINK 1 iiAVK r>i:i:x a ror»L" 2(^5 

"That is just what I told him lie had dune, sir." 

" Has he signed the declaration ? " 

" Of course he has. The men have to do that, you 
know, sir, before they get any work. He says he 
wishes he had come back at first." 

" So do a good many others, in their hearts," 
answered Mr. Hunter, significantly. " But they can't 
pluck up the courage to acknowledge it." 

" The men are most bitter against him — ui'ged on, 
no doubt, by the Union. They " 

" Against Baxendale ? " 

"Against Baxendale. He came to .speak to me 
oefore breakfast. I gave him the declaration to read 
and sign, and sent him to work at once. In the course 
of the morning it had g(jt wind ; though Baxendale 
told me he had given Sam Shuck notice of his inten- 
tion on Saturday night. At dinner-time, wlien 
Baxendale was (juitting the yard, there were, 1 
should say, a couple of hundred men asseud.iled 
there " 

"The Daffodil's Ddiglit people?" intenuptvd Mr. 
Hunter. 

"Yes. Our hite men chielly, and a sprinkling oi 
Mr. Henry's. They were waiting there for Baxi-ndale, 
and the moment he aj»peared, tiie yells, the hisses, the 
groans, were dreadful. I suspected what it was, and 
ran out. J')Ut foi- ni}- doing so, I brlieve tlicy wi>uld 
have set upon him. ' 



286 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Mark you, Clay ! I will protect iny workmen to 
the very limit of the law. Let the malcontents lay 
only a finger upon any one of them, and they shall 
assuredly be punished to the uttermost," reiterated 
Mv. Hunter, bringing down his hand forcibly. " What 
did you do ? " 

"I spoke to them just as you have now spoken," 
!5aid Austin. " Their thrcatenings to the man were 
terrible. I dared them to lay a finger upon him ; I 
assured them that the language they were using was 
punishable. Had the police been in the way — but the 
more you want them, the less they arc to be seen — I 
should have handed a few into custody." 

" Who were the rinLrleaders ? " 

"I can scarcely tell. Rayn, the Irishman, was 
busy, and so was Jim Dunn; Cheek, also, backed by 
his wife." 

" Oh, you had women also I " 

" In plenty," .said Austin. " One of them — I think 
it was Cooper's wife — roared out a challenge to fight 
Mrs. Baxendale, if her man. Cooper, as she expressed 
it, was too much of a woman to fight Idm. There will 
be bloodshed, I fear, sir, before the thing is over." 

" If there i.s, let thc}'^ who cause it look to them- 
selves," said Mr. Hunter, speaking as sternly as he felt. 
" How did it end ? " 

" I cleared a pas-sagc for Baxendale, and they yelled 
and hooted him home," replied Austin. "'I suppose 



"1 TlItXK I HAVE 13EEK A FOOL." 287 

they'd like to take my life, sir,' be said to mo ; ' but I 
think I am only doing right in returning to ■\voik. 
I could not let my family and ]\[ary quite starve.' 
Tills afternoon all was (|uiet ; Quale told me the men 
vrere holdinjj a meetinfj. 

Florence Mas sitting with her hands clasped, her 
colour gradually rising. " If they should — set upon 
Baxendale, and— and injure him !" she breathed. 

" Then the law would see what it could do towards 
getting some of them punished," sternly sj)okc Mr. 
Hunter. 

"Oh, James!" interj)osed his wife, her pale cheeks 
Hushing, as the word grated on her ears. " Can 
nothing be done to prevent it ? Prevention is better 
than cure. Austin, will you not give notice to the 
police, and tell them to be on the alert i " 

" I have done it," answered Austin. 

" Papa," .said Florence, " have you heard that Robert 
Darby's children are ill ? — likely to die ? They are 
suffering dreadfully from want. Mary Baxendale said 
BO when .she was liere this morninir." 

" I know nothing about Robert Darby or hid 
children," Mas the uncompromising reply of Mr. 
Hunter. "If a man .sees his children starving before 
him, and Mill not Mork to feed them, he de.ierves to 
find them ill. Florence, I sec M'hat you mean — you 
■\v<iuld like to ask me to pernut yuu (n send them 
relief. / will not." 



288 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Do not judge of Mr. Hunter's humanity by these 
words, or deem him an unfeeling man. He was far 
fiom that. Had the men been out of work through 
misfortune, he would have been the first to forward 
tliem succour ; man}- and many a time had be done it 
in cases of sickness. He considered, as did most of 
the other London masters, that to help the men or 
their families in any way would only tend to prolong 
the dispute. And there was certainly reason in their 
argument — if the men wished to feed their children, 
why did they not work for them ? 

"Sir," whispered Austin, when he was going, and 
Mr. Hunter went with him into the hall, " that bill of 
Lamb's came back to us to-day, noted. ' 

"No!" 

" It did, indeed. 1 hud to take it up. " 

Mr. Hunter lifted his hands. " This wretched state 
of things ! It will bring on ruin — it will bring on ruin. 
I heard one of the masters curse the men the other 
day in his perplexity and anger , there are times when 
1 am tempted to follow his example. Ruin ! for my 
wife and for Florence I " 

" Mr. Hunter," exclaimed Austin, greatly agitated, 
and .speaking in the moment's impulse, "why will you 
not give me the hope of winning her ? I will make 
licr a hapj>y home " 

'■ Be silent ! " stenily internipted Mr. Hunter. " I 
Jiave told you tlmt Florence can never be yours. If 



"1 THINK 1 IIAVK BEEN A FOOL." 289 

you cannot put away this unthankful subject, at once 
and for ever, I must forbid you the house." 

"Good-niglit, sir," returned Austin. And he went 
away, sighing heavily. 



k Life 'a Secret. ] (t 



290 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER IV. 

SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 

Huw do the poor manage to pull through illness ? 
Through distress, through hunger, through cold, 
through nakedness ; above all, through the close, un- 
wholesome atmosphere in \vhich too many of them 
are obliged to live, they struggle on from sickness 
back to health. 

Look at the children of Robert Darby. The low 
fever which attacked them had in some inexplicable 
way been subdued, without its going on to the dreaded 
typhus. If tyi)hu3 had appeared at that untoward 
time in Datfodil's Delight, why, then, no earthly power 
could have kept many from the grave. Little pale, 
])inched form.s, but with the disea.sc gone, there sat 
Darby's children. Colder weather had come, and they 
liad gathered round the bit of fire in their close room. 
Fire it could scarcely be called, for it was only a few 
decaying embers. All sat on the floor, except Willy ; 
he was in a chair, leaning his head laick on a pillow. 
The boy had probably never been iitted by constitu- 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 291 

tion for a prolonged life, though he might have lasted 
some years more ^vith favourable surroundings ; as it 
was, fever and privation had done tlieir -work with 
him, and the little spirit -svas nearly worn out. Mrs. 
Darby had taken him round to Mr. Rice. " He does 
not want me, he wants good nourishment, and plenty 
of it," was the apothecary's announcement: and Mrs. 
Darby took liim home again. 

" Mother, tlie fire's nearly out." 

" I can't help it, Willy. Tlicre's no coal, and notliing 
to buy it with." 

" Take something, mother." 

You may or may not, as you are acquainted or not 
with the habits of the poor, be aware that this sentence 
referred to the pawnbroker : spoken out fully it would 
have been, " Take something and pledge it^ motlier." 
In cases of long-continued general distress, the children 
of a family know just ea much about its ways and 
means as the heads do. 

Mrs. Darby cast her eyes round the kitclicn. Tliere 
was nothing to take, nothing that wouM raise tliem 
help, to speak of. As she stood over Willy, i)arting 
the hair Avith her gentle finger U])on hi.s littlr pale 
brow, her tears dropped upon liis face. Tlie pillow 
on which his head leaned ! Ay ; slie hud tlutught oi 
that with lunging; but huw would liis poor aelung 
liead do without it { The last things put in pledge 
had been DiviI'v'k tools. 



21»-2 A LIFE'S SECUET. 

Tlie latch of tlie door opened, and Grace entered. 
She appeared to be in some deep distress. Flinging 
herself on a chair, she clasped hold of her mother, 
sobbing wildly, clinging to her as if for protection. 
" Oh, mothei', they have accused me of theft ; the 
police have been had to me 1 " were the confused words 
that broke from her Iij)s. 

Grace had taken service in a baker's family, where 
there was an excessively cross mistress. She was a 
well-conducted, honest girl, and, since the distress had 
commenced at home, had brought her wages straight 
to her mother, whenever they were paid her. For the 
last week or two, the girl liad brought something 
more. On the days when she believed she could get 
a minute to run home in the evening, she had put by 
her allowance of meat at dinner — they lived well at 
tlie baker's — and made it iii»on l»read and [)otatoes. 
ilad Grace for a moment suspected there was anything 
wrong or dishonest in this, she would not have done 
it : she deemed the meat was hers, and she took it to 
Willy. On this day, two good slices of mutton were 
cut for her ; she put them by, ate her potatoes and 
bread, and after dinner, ujion being sent on an errand 
past Daffodil's Delight, was taking them out with her. 
The mistress ])ounced upon her. She abused her, she 
reproached her with theft, she called her husband to 
join in the accusation ; and finally, a policeman Avas 
bi'ought in from the street, probably more to frighten 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 203 

the girl tlian to give her in charge. It did frighten 
lier in no measured degree. She protested, as well as 
she could do it for her sobs, that she had no di.shonest 
thoufdit : that she had believed the meat to be hers 
to eat it or not as she pleased, and that she was going 
to take it to her little brother, who was dying. The 
policeman decided that it was not a case for charge 
at the police-court, and the baker's wife ended the 
matter by turning her out. All this, with sobs and 
moans, she by degrees explained now. 

Robert Darby, who had entered during the scene, 
placed his hand, more in sorrow than in anger, u[)(in 
Grace's .shoulder, in his stern honesty. "Daughter, I'd 
far rather we all dropped down here upon the floor 
and died out with starvation, than that you should 
have brouglit home what was not yours to bring." 

" There's no need for ']iov, to scold her, Robert," 
spoke Mr.s. Darby, with more temper than .she, meek 
woman that .she was, often betrayed : and lier con- 
science told her that she had purpo.sely kept these 
little epi.sodes from her husljaml. " It is the bits of 
meat slie has fed liim with twice or thrice a week that 
has just k(!pt life in him ; that's my firm belief." 

"She shouldn't liave done it; it was not hers to 
bring,' returned Robert Darby. 

"What else has he had to feetl him?" proceeded 
the wife, determined to dctmd tlic gii 1. " \\'liat do 
uny of us have ? I'ua are getting nulhing." The 



204 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

tone was a reproachful one. With her starving 
children before her, and one of them dying, the poor 
mother's wrung heart could only speak out. 

" I know T am getting nothing. Is it my fault ? I 
wisli I could get something. I'd work my fingers to 
the bone to keep my children." 

"Robert, let me speak to you," she said in an im- 
ploring tone, the tears gushing from her eyes. " I 
have sat here this week and asked myself, every hour 
of it, what we shall do. All our things, that money 
caa be made on, are gone ; the pittance we are allowed 
by the .society does not keep body and soul together ; 
and this state of affairs gets worse, and will get worse. 
What is to become of us ? What are we to do ? " 

Robert Darby leaned in his old jacket — one con- 
siderably the worse for wear — against the kitchen 
wall, his countenance gloomy, his attitude bespeaking 
misery. He knew not what they were to do, there- 
fore he did not attempt to say. Grace had laid down 
her inflamed face upon the edge of Willy's pillow and 
was .sobbing silently. The others .sat on the floor : 
very quiet; as semi-starved little ones arc apt to be. 

" You have just .said 3'ou would work your fingers 
to the bone to keep your children," resumed Mrs, 
Darby to her husband. 

" I'd work for them till the flesh dropped ofl" me. 
I'd ask no better than to do it," he vehemently said. 
'' But where am I to got work to do now ? " 



HOMEBODY "PIT* HEP INTO." 295 

" Baxendale lias got it," she rejoined in a low tone. 

Grace started from her leaning posture. " Oh, 
father, do as Baxendale has done! don't let the 
children quite starve. If you had been in -work, this 
dreadful thing would nut have happened. It will be 
a slur upon mc for life." 

" So I would work, girl, but for the Trades' Unions." 

" Father, the Trades' Unions seem to bring you no 
good; nothing but harm. Don't trust them any 
longer ; trust the masters now," 

Never was there a more well-meaning man than 
Robert Darby; but Iw was too easily swayed by 
others. Latterly it had appeared to him that the 
Trades' Unions did bring him harm, and his trust in 
them was .shaken. He stood for a few moments, 
revolving the question in his own mind. "They'd 
ca.st me off, you see, the Trades' Unions would," ho 
observed to his wife, in an irresolute tone. 

" ^\^^at if they did ? The masters would take you 
on. Stand right with the masters " 

Mr.s. Darb}' was interrupted by a shriek from CJraco. 
Little Willy, whom no])o<ly had been giving at- 
tention to, was lying back with a white face, senseless. 
Whether from the weakness of his condition, or from 
the unusual excitement of the scene going on aroiuid 
him, certain it was that the child had fainted. There 
was some little bustle in brinfjin^r him to, and .Mis. 
Parby sat down, the boy upon her laj). 



296 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" What ailed you, deary ? " said Robert Darby, 
bending down to him. 

" I don't know, father," returned tlio child. And 
his voice was fainter than ever. 

Mrs. Darby pulled her husband's ear close to her 
lips. "When the boy's dead, you'll wish you had 
cared for him more than for the Trades' Union ; and 
"worked for him." 

The words told upon the man. Perhaps for the 
first time he had fully realized to his imagination the 
moment when ho sliould see his bo}-^ lying dead before 
him. "I will work," he exclaimed. "Willy, boy, 
father will go and get work ; and he'll soon bring you 
home something good to eat, as he used to." Will^-'a 
hot lips parted with a pleasant smile of response ; his 
blue eyes glistened brightly. Robert Darby bent his 
rough, unshaven face, and took a kiss from the child's 
smooth one. " Yes, my boy, father ivill work." 

He went out bending his steps towards Slippery 
Sam's — who, by the way, had latterly tried to exact 
the title of " Mr. Shuck." There was a code of honour 
— as they regarded it — amongst these operatives of 
the Huntei*s, to do nothing underhand. That is, not 
to resume work without first speaking to the Union.s' 
man, Sam Shuck — as was mentioned in the case of 
Baxendale. 

It happened that Mr. Shuck was standing in the 
strip of garden before his house, cai-rying on a wordy 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 297 

war over the palings with Mrs. Quale, when Darby 
came up. Peter Quale had of course been locked out 
with the rest, but with the first hour that Mr. 
Hunter's yard was opened, Peter returned to his 
work. He did not belong to the Trades' Unions — he 
never had belonged to them and never wouM ; there- 
fore, he was a free man. Strange to .say, he was left 
to do as he liked in peace ; somehow the Union did 
not care to interfere with Peter Quale — for one thing 
he occupied a better position in the yard than most of 
the men. Peter pursued his own course quietly — 
going to his work and returning from it, saying little 
to the malcontents of Daffodil's Delight. Not so Mrs. 
Quale ; she exercised her tongue upon them whenever 
she had the chance. Her motive was a good one : 
she was at heart sorry for the privation at present 
existing in Daffodil's Delight, and would iiave liked 
to shame the men into going to work again. 

"Now, Robert Darby! how are them children of 
your'n ? " began she. " Starved out yet { " 

" Next door to it," w^as Darby's answer. 

"And whose is tlu; fault?" .she went on. "If 1 
had children, and my husband wouldn't work to 
keep 'em out of their grave."^, through getting some 
nasty mistaken crotchet in his head, and holding 
out when the work was going a-begging, I'd go before 
a majnstrate and sec if I couldn't have the law of 
him." 



298 A r J Firs SKCRET. 

" You'd do a <,'ood many things if yuii wore the 
breeches," interposed Sam Shuck, witli a sneer ; " but 
you don't, you know." 

"You be wearing wliule breeches now, which you 
get out of the blood and marrow of the poor mis- 
guided men," retorted Mrs. Quale. " Thoy won't last 
out whole for ever, Slippery Sam." 

" They'll last out as long as I want 'em to, I dare 
say," said Sam, " Have you come up for anything 
particular. Darby ? " 

" I have come to talk a bit, Shuck," answered 
Darby, inwardly shrinking from his task, ami so 
deferring for a minute the announcement. " There 
seems no chance of this state of things coming to 
an end." 

"No; that there doesn't. You men are preventing 
that." 

" Us men ! " exclaimed Robert Darby, in surprise. 
" What do you mean ? " 

• I don't mean you ; I don't mean the sturdy, 
honest fellows who hold out for their rights like men 
— I moan the other lot. If every operative in the 
kingdom had held out, to a man, the masters would 
have given in long ago — they must have done it ; 
and you would all be back, working in triumph 
the nine hours per day. I .spoke of those rats who 
sneak in, and take tho work, to the detriment of 
the honest man," 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 299 

"At any rate, the rats arc getting the best of it 
just now," said Robert Darby. 

" That they are," said Mrs. Quale, exultingl}', 
■who would not lose an opportunity of putting in her 
Avord. She stood facing the men, her arms resting 
on the palings tliat divided the gardens. " It isn't 
tJie'ir children that are dropping into their winding- 
sheets through want of food," 

" If I had my way, I'd hang every man who in 
this crisis is putting his hand to a stroke of work," 
exclaimed Sam Shuck. " Traitors ! to turn and work 
for the masters after they had resorted to a lock-out ! 
It was that lock-out floored us." 

" Of course it was," assented Mrs. Quale, with 
marked complaisance. " If the Union only had 
money coming in from the men, they'd hold out for 
ever. But the general lock-out stopped that." 

"Ugh!" growled Sam, witli the addition of an 
iigly word. 

" Well, Shuck, as things seem to be getting worse 
instead of better, and prospects look altogether so 
gloomy, I shall go back to work myself," resinned 
])aili>-, plucking up courage to say it. 

" Pshaw ! " said Shuck. 

" Will you tell me what I atn to do '. I'd rather 
turn a thousand miles the other way than I'd put my 
foot imloors at home, and ece things as tlwy are 
there. If a man can clam himself, he can't watch 



300 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

those belonging,' to liiiii clam. Every farthing of 
allowance I liad from the society last week was " 

" You had your share," interrupted Sam, who never 
cared to contend about the amount received. " Think 
of tlic tliousands there is to divide it among. The 
subscriptions have come in very well as yet, but they 
be falling off now." 

"And think of the society's expenses," interposed 
Mrs. Quale, with suavity. "The scores of gentlemen, 
like Mr. Shuck, there is to pay, and keep on the fat 
of the land. He'll be going into Parliament next ! " 

" You shut up, will you ? " roared Sam. " Ryan," 
called out he to the Irishman, who was lounging up, 
" here's Darby saying he thinks he shall go to work." 

"Oh, but that would be rich," said Ryan, with a 
laugh, as he entered the garden, and took his standing 
beside Sam Shuck. " Darby, man, you'd never desert 
the society ! It couldn't spare you." 

"I want to do for the best," said Darby; "and it 
seems to me that to hold out is for the worst. Shuck, 
ju.st answer me a question or two, as from man to 
man. If the masters fill their yards with other 
operatives, what is to become of us ? " 

" They can't fill their yards with other operatives," 
returned Shuck. " Where's the use of talking non- 
sense ? 

" But they can. They are doing it." 

"They are not. They have just got a sprinkling of 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 301 

men for show — not many. Wlicre are they to get 
tliem from ? " 

" Do you know what I heard ? Tliat Mr. Henry 
Hunter ha.-s been over to Belgium, and one or two of 
tlie other masters have also been, and " 

"There's no fear of the Beljim workmen," inter- 
ru[>tcd Ryan. "What English master 'ud en)i)loy 
them half-starved frogs ? " 

" I heard that Mr. Henry Hunter was quite thunder- 
struck at their skill," continued Darby, paying no 
attention to the interruption. " Their tools arc bad : 
they are not to be called tools, compared to ours ; but 
they turn out finished work. Their decorative work 
is beautiful. Mr. Henry Hunter put the question to 
them, whether they would like to come to England 
and earn five-and-sixpence per day, instead of three 
shillings as they do there, and they jumped at it. 
He told them that perhaps he might be sending fur 
them." 

" Where did you liear that tine talc .- " asked 
Slij)pery Sam. 

" It's going about among us. I daie say you have 
heard it also. Shuck. Mr. Henry was away some- 
where for nine or ten days." 

"Let 'em come, them Beljicks," sneered li}an. 
" Maybe they'd go back with their lieads off. It 
couldn't take nnich to split the .skull of tlii-m I'lcnch 
beggars." 



302 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Not wlicii an Irishman holds the stick,'' cried Mrs. 
Quale, looking the man steadily in the face, as she 
left the palings. 

Ryan watched her awa}', and resumed. " How 
dare the masters think of taking on forringers ? 
Leaving us to starve I " 

"The preventing it lies with us," said Darby. 
"If we go back to work, there'll be no room for 
them." 

" Listen, Darby," rejoined Shuck, in a persuasive 
tone of confidence, the latter in full force, now that 
his enemy, Mrs. Quale, had gone. " The bone of con- 
tention is the letting us work nine hours a-day instead 
of ten : well, why should they not accord it ? Isn't 
there every reason why they should ? Isn't there 
men, outsiders, willing to work a full day's work, but 
can't get it ? This extra hour, thrown up by us, 
would give cmi)loymcnt to them. Would the masters 
be any the worse off { " 

"They say they'd be the liour's wages out of 
pocket." 

"Flam!" ejaculated Sam. "It would come out of 
the public's pocket, not out of the masters'. They 
would add so much the more on to their contracts, 
and nobody would be the worse. It's just a dogged 
feeling of obstinacy that's upon 'era ; it's nothing cLsc. 
They'll come-to in the oml, if yuu men will only let 
them; they can't help doing it. ifold out, hold uutj 



SOMEBODY '-PITCnED INTO. 303 

Darby I If we arc to give in to them now, wlioie 
has been the use of tlii.s struggle i Haven't you 
waited for it, and starved for it, and hoped for it ? " 

" Very true," replied Darby, feeling in a perplexing 
maze of indecision. 

" Don't give in, man, at the eleventh hour," urged 
Shuck, with affectionate eloquence : and to hear him 
you would have thought he had nothing in the world 
at heart so much as the interest of Robert Darby. 
"A little longer, and the victory will be ours. You 
see, it is not the bare fact of your going back that 
does the mischief, it's the example it sets. But for 
that scoundrel Baxendale's turning tail, you would 
not have thought about it." 

" I don't know that," .said Darby. 

" One bad .-iheep will .spoil a flock," continued Sam, 
pufHng away at a cigar that he was smoking. He 
would have enjoyed a pii»c a great deal more ; but 
gentlemen smoked cigars, and Sam wanted to look a.s 
much like a gentleman as he could ; it had been 
suggested to him that it would add to his power over 
the operatives. "Why, Darby, we have got it all in 
our own hands — if you men could but be brought to 
see it. It's as plain as the nose before you. Us 
builders, taking us in all our branches might be the 
most united and prosperous body of men in the world. 
Only let us pull together, and have consideration for 
our fellows, and put iwviiy ^ellishness. Bin<lJng our- 



304 A LIFE'S SECREt. 

selves to work on an equality, nine hours a-day being 
the limit; eight, perhaps, after a while " 

" It's a good thing you have not much of an 
audience here, Sam Shuck ! That doctrine of yours 
is false and pernicious; it's in oppu-siticm to the laws 
uf C!ud and man.' 

Tlic interruption proceeded from Dr. Bevary. He 
had come into the garden unperceived by Sam, who 
was lounging on the side-palings, his back to the 
gate. The doctor was on his way to pay a visit to 
Mary Baxendalc. Sam started ui». 

" What did you say, sir ? " 

" What did I say ! " repeated Dr. Bevary. " I think 
it should be, what did you say ? You would dare to 
circumscribe the means of usefulness God has given 
to man — to set a limit to his talents and his labour ! 
You would say, ' So far shall you work, and no 
farther ! ' Who are you, and all such as you, that you 
should assume such power, and set yourselves up 
between your fellow-men and their responsibilities ? " 

"Hear, hear," interrupted Mrs. Quale, putting her 
head out at her window — for she had gone indoors. 
*' Give him a bit of truth, sir." 

"I have been a hard worker for years," continued 
Dr. Bevary, paying no attention, it nnist be confessed, 
to Mrs. Quale, " Mentally and practically I have 
toiled — toiled, Sam Shuck — to improve and make use 
of the talents entrusted to me. My days are spent 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 305 

in alleviating, so far as may be, the sufferings of my 
fellow-creatures ; when I go to rest, I often lie awake 
half the night, pondering difficult questions in medical 
science. What man living has God endowed with 
power to come and say to me, ' You shall not do this; 
you shall only work half your hours ; you shall only 
earn a limited amount of fees ? ' Answer me." 

" It's not a [)arallel case, sir, with ours," returned 
Sam. 

" It is a parallel case," said Dr. Bevary. " There's 
your friend next door, Peter Quale ; take him. By 
diligence he has made himself into a finished artisan ; 
by dint of industry in \vorking over-hours, he is amass- 
ing a competence that will keep him out of the work- 
house in his old age. What reason or piinciplo of 
justice can there be in your saying, ' Hi} shall not do 
this-; he .shall receive no more tlian I do, or than Ryan, 
there, does ? Because Ryan is an inferior woikmuii, 
and I love idleness and drink and agitation better 
than work. Quale and others shall not woik to liave 
an advantage over us; wc will share and fare alike.' 
Out upon you, Slippery Sam, for promulgating doc- 
trines so false I ^'ou nni.^t be the incarnation >>( 
selfishness, or you could not do it. if ever they obtain 
sway in free and enlightened England, the inde- 
pendence of the workman will be at an end ' 

The doctor stepped into Shuck's liouse, on his way 
to Mary Baxendale, leaving Sam on the gravel. Sam 

▲ Llfe'f Secret. 'iO 



806 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

put his ana within Darby's, and le<l hiia Juwn tho 
street, out of tlio doctor's way, who would be coming 
forth again presently. There he set himself to undo 
what the doctor's words had done, and to breatho 
persuasive ai-guments into ])arby's ear. Latci', Darby 
wont liome. It had grown dusk then, for Sam had 
treated him to a glass at the Bricklayers' Arms, where 
sundry other friends were taking their gla.sses. There 
appeared to be a commotion in his house as he entered ; 
his wife, Grace, and the young ones were standing 
round Willy. 

"He has had another fainting-fit," said Mi-s. Darby 
to her husband, in explanation. " And now — I declare 
illness is the strangest thing '. — he says he is hungry." 

The child put out his hot hand. " Father ! " 

Robert Darby advanced and took it. " Bo you 
better, dear ? What ails you this evening ? " 

" Father," whispered the child, hopefully, " have you 
got the work ? " 

" When do you begin, Robert ? " asked the wife. 
" To-morrow ? " 

Darby's eyes fell, and his face clouded. "I can't 
ask for it ; I can't go back to work," he answered. 
" The society won't lot me." 

A great cry. A cry from the mother, from Grace, 
from the poor little child. Hope, sprung up once more 
within them, had been illumining the past few hours. 
" You shall soon have food ; father's going to work 



SOMEBODY "PITCHED INTO." 307 

a^^uiu, darlings," the mother had said to the liungry 
little ones. And now the hopes were dashed to the 
ground ! The disappointment was hard to bear. 

"Is he to d(C of hunger ? " exclaimed Mrs. Darb}', in 
bitternes.s, pointing to Will}'. " You said you wouM 
work for him." 

" So I would, if they'd let me. I'd work the life 
out of me, but what I'd get a crust for ye all ; but 
the Trades' Union won't have it," panted Darby, his 
breath short with excitement. " What am I to do ? " 

" Work without the Trades' Union, father," inter- 
posed Grace, taking courage to speak. She had always 
lieon a favourite with her father. " Baxendale has 
done it." 

" They are threatening Baxendalo awfully," he 
answered. "But it is not that I'd care for; it's thi.s. 
The society would put a mark upon me : I should be 
a banned man: and when this struggle's over, tlicy 
say I should be let get work by neithw masters nor 
men. My tools are in pledge, too," he added, as if 
that climax must end the contest. 

Mrs. Darby threw ht-r apron over her eyes and 
liurst into tears; Grace was already crying silently, 
and the boy had his imploring little hands htld up. 
" Robert, they are your own children I " said the wile, 
meekly. " I never thought you'd .see them starve." 

Another minute, and the man wotild liave crird 
with them, lie went out-of-doors, porliajis to soli hi.s 



308 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

emotion away. 'i\vo or three steps down the street 
lie encountered John Baxendale. The latter slipped 
five shillings into his hand. Darby would have put 
it hack ai,'ain. 

" Tut, man ; don't be squoauiish. Take it fur the 
children. You'd do as much for mine, if you had got 
it and I hadn't. ^lary and I have been talking about 
you. She heard you having an argument with that 
snake, Shuck." 

" They be starving, Baxendale, or I wouldn't take 
it," returned the man, the tears running down his 
pinched face. " I'll pay you back with the first work 
I get. You call Shuck a snake ; do you think he is 
one ? 

"I'm sure of it," said Baxendale. "I don't know 
that ho moans ill, but can't yon see the temptation it 
is ? — all this distress and agitation that's ruining us 
is making a gentleman of him. He and the other 
agents are living on the fat of the land, as Quale's wife 
calls it, and doing nothing for their pay, except keep- 
ing up the agitation. If we all went to work again 
quietly, where would they be ? Why, they'd have to 
go to work also, for their pay must cease. Darby, I 
think the ej'es of you Union men must be blinded, not 
to see this." 

"It seems plain enough to me at times," assented 
Darby. " I say, Baxendale," he added, wishing to 
speak a word of warning to his friend ere he turned 



SOMEBODY '^HTCHED INTO." 30i» 

away, " have a care of yourself; they are going on 
again you, at a fine rate." 

Come "vvhat would. Darby determined to furnish a 
home meal with this relief, which seemed like a very 
help from heaven. He bought two pounds of beef, a 
pound of cheese, some tea, some sugar, two loaves of 
bread, and a lemon to make drink for Willy. Turning 
liome with these various treasures, he became aware 
tliat a bustle had arisen in the street. Men and 
women were pressing down towards one particular 
spot. Tongues were busy; but he could not at first 
obtain an insight into the cause of the commotion. 

" An obnoxious man had been set upon in a lonely 
corner, under cover of the night's darkness, and 
pitched into," was at length explained, " Beaten to 
death." 

Away flew Darb}', a horrible suspicion at his licai-t. 
Pushing his way amidst the crowd collected round 
the spot, as only a resolute man can do, he stood face 
to face witli the sight. One, trampled on and beaten, 
lay in the dust, liis face covered with bluod. 

"Is it Baxendale ? " shouted Darby, for he wqa 
unable to recognize him. 

"It's Baxendale, as sure as a trivet. Who else 
should it be ? Tie have caught it at last." 

But there were pitying faces around. Humanity 
revolted at the sight; and (piiet, inoffensive John 
Baxendale had ever been liked in Dafibdil's Delight. 



310 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Robert Darby, his voice rising to a shriek with 
ciuotion, held out his armful of provisions. 

" Look here ! I wanted to work, but tlie Union 
won't let me. My wife and children be starving at 
home, one of them dying : I came out, for I couldn't 
bear to .stop indoors in the misery. There I met a 
friend — it seemed to me more like an angel — and he 
gave me money to feed my children ; made me take 
it ; he said if I had money and he had not, I'd do as 
much for him. See what I bought with it: I was 
carrying it home for my poor children when this cry 
arose. Friends, the one to give it me was Baxendale. 
And you have murdered him 1 " 

Another great cry, even as Darby concluded, arose 
to break the deep stillness. No stillness is so deep 
as that caused by emotion. 

" He is not dead ! " shouted the crowd. " See ! lie 
is stirring ! Wlio could have done this ? " 



( 311 ) 



CHAPTER V. 

A GLOOMV CHAPTER. 

The winter had come in intensely hard. Frost and 
snow lay early upon the grouinl. Was tliat infliction 
in store — a bitter winter — to be added to the already 
fearful distress existing in this dense nietro})ulis ? 
The men held out from work, and the condition of 
their families was something sad to look upon. 

Distress of a different nature existed in the house 
of ^Ir. Hunter. It was a house of sorrow; for its 
mistress lay dying. The spark of life had long been 
flickering, and now its time to depart had come. 
Haggard, worn, pale, stood Mr. Hunter in his draw- 
ing-room. He was conversing with his brotlier 
Henry. Their toi)ic was liusiness. In spite of 
existing domestic woes, men of business cannot long 
forget their daily occupation. Mr. Henry Hunter had 
come in to a.sk for news of his si.ster-in-law, and tlio 
conversation insensibly turned on other matters. 

"Of course I sliall weather it," Mr. Henry was 
saying, in answer to a (juestion. " It will be a fearful 



3i2 A LIFE'S SECREt. 

loss, uitli so mucli money out, and buildings in 
process standing still. Did it last very much longer, 
I hardly know that I could. And you, James ? " 

Mr. Hunter evaded the question. Since the time, 
years back, when they had dissolved partnership, 
he had shunned all allusion to his own prosperity, 
or want of prosperity, with his brother. Po.ssibly he 
feared that it might lead to that other subject — 
the mysterious paying away of the five thousand 
pounds. 

" For my part, I do not feel so sure of the strike's 
being near its end," he remarked. 

" I have positive information that the eligibility 
of withdrawing the strike at the Messrs. Pollocks' 
has been mooted by the central committee of the 
Union," said Mr. Henry. " If nothing else has 
brought the men to their senses, this weather must do 
it. It will end as nearly all strikes have ended — in 
their resuming work upon our tei'ms." 

" But what an incalculable amount of sutlering they 
have brought upon themselves ! " exclaimed Mr. 
Hunter. "I do not see what is to become of them, 
either, in future. How are they all to find work 
again i We shall not turn oH' the stranger men who 
have worked f<>r us in tliis emergency, to make room 
for them." 

"No, indeed," replied Mi-. Henry. "And those 
strangers amount to neaily half my complement of 



A GLOOMY CHAPTER. 3l3 

hands. Do you recollect a fellow of the name of 
Moody ? " 

" Of course I do. I met him the other day, lookhig 
like a walking skeleton. I a.sked him whether he 
was not tired of the strike. He said lie had been 
tired of it long ago; but the Union would not let 
him be." 

" He hung him.self yesterday." 

Mr. Hunter replied only by a gesture. 

"And left a written paper behind him, cursing the 
strike and the Trades' Unions, which had brought 
ruin upon him and his family. " I saw the paper," 
continued Mr. Henry. " A decent, quiet man he was ; 
but timid, and easily led away." 

" Is he dead '. " 

" He had been dead t\ro \umv<, \\]um he was found. 
He hung him.self in that .shed at the back of Dunn's 
house, where tlie men held some meetings in the 
connnencement of the strike. I wonder how many 
more .souls this wretched state of ati'airs will send, or 
lia.s sent, out of the world ! " 

" Hundred.s, directly or indirectly. The children 
arc dying olf <piiekly, as the Kegistrur-Gcncrars 
returns show. A peri(jd of prolonged distress always 
tells upon the children. And upon us also, T think," 
Mr. Hunter added, with a si^di. 

" Upon us in a degree," Mr. Il< nry a.s.sentcd, some- 
what carelessly. He was a man of substance: and, 



314 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

upon such, thu ill oftV'cts fall lightly. " When the 
masters act in combination, as we have done, it is not 
the men who can do us permantiit injury. They 
must give in, before great harm has had time to come. 
James, I saw that man this morning : your bete noire, 
as I call him." 

Air. Hunter changed countenance. He could not 
he ignorant that his brother alluded to Gwinn, of 
Kettcrford. It happened that Mr. Henry Hunter had 
been cognizant of one or two of the unpleasant visits 
forced by the man upon his brother during the last 
few years. But Mr. Henry had avoided questions: 
he had the tact to perceive that they would only go 
unanswered, and be deemed unpleasant into the 
bargain. 

" I met him near your yard. Perhaps he was going 
in there." 

The sound of the muffled knocker, announcing a 
visitor, was heard the moment after Mr. Henry spoke, 
and Mr. Hunter started as though struck by a pistol- 
shot. At a calmer time he might have had more 
command over himself; but the sudden announcement 
of the presence of the man in town — which fact he 
had not been cognizant of — liad startled him to tremor. 
That Gwinn, and no one else, was knocking for ad- 
mittance, seemed a certainty to his shattered nervee. 
"I cannot see him : I cannot see him !" he exclaimed, 
in agitation ; and he backed away from the room-door, 



A GLOOMY CHAPTER. 31 5 

unconscious ^^•hat he did in his confused fear, his lips 
blanching to a deadly whiteness. 

Mr. Henry moved up and took his hand. " James, 
there has been estrangement between us on this point 
for years. As I asked you once before, I now ask 
you again: confide in me and let me help you. What- 
ever the dreadful secret may be, you shall find me 
your true brother." 

" Hush 1 " breathed Mr. Hunter, moving from his 
brother in his scared alarm. " Dreadful secret ! who 
.says it ? There is no dreadful secret. Oh, Henry ! 
hush ! hush ! The man is coming in ! You must 
leave us." 

Not the dreaded Gwinn, but Austin Clay. He was 
the one who entered. Mr, Hunter sat down, breathing 
lieavily ; lie nearly fainted in the revulsion of feeling 
brought by the relief. Broken in spirit, health and 
nerve.^ alike shattered, the slightest thing was now 
suHicient to agitate him. 

" You are ill, sir ! " exclaimed Austin, advancing with 
concern. 

"No — no — I am not ill. A momentary .'ipasni ; 
that's all. I am subject to it." 

Mr. Henry moved to the door in vexation. There 
was to be no more brotherly confidence between them 
now than there had formerly been. He spoke as ho 
Went, without turning round. " I will coiix' in au'-'iiii 
by-and-by, James, and see how Loui.sa is." 



3lG A LIFE'S SECRET. 

The departure seemed a positive relief to Mr. Huntei*. 
He spoke quietly enough to Austin Clay. " Who has 
been at the office to-day ? " 

" Let me see," returned Austin, with a purposed 
carelessness. " Lyall came, and Thompson " 

" Not men on business, not men on business," 
Mr. Hunter interrupted Avith feverish eagerness. 
" Strangers." 

" Gwinn, of Kettcrford," answered Austin, with the 
same assumption of carelessness. " He came twice. 
No other strangers have called, I think." 

Whether his brother's request, that he should be 
enlightened as to the " dreadful secret," had rendered 
Mr. Hunter suspicious that others might surmise there 
was a secret, certain it is that he looked uj) sharply as 
Austin spoke, keenly regarding his countenance, noting 
the sound of his voice. 

" What did Gwinn want ? " 

" He wanted you, sir. I said you were not to be 
seen. I let him suppose that you were too ill to be 
seen. Baile\', who was in the counting-house at the 
time, gave him the gratuitous information that Mrs. 
Hunter was very ill — in danger." 

Why this answer should have increased Mr. 
Hunter's suspicions, he best knew. He rose from his 
seat, grasped Austin's arm, and spoke with menace, 
" You have been prying into my affairs ! You sought 
out those Gwinns when you last went to Ketterford I 
You " 



A GLOOMY CHAPTKH. 317 

Austin withdrew from the grasp, and stood before 
his master, calm and upriglit. " Mr. Hunter ! " 

" Was it not so ? " 

" No, sir, I thought you liad known me Letter. I 
shouM ]je the last to ' pry ' into anything that you 
might wish to keep secret." 

" Austin, I am not myself to-da}", I am not myself." 
cried the poor gentleman, feeling how unjustifiahle 
had been his suspicion.s. " This grief, induced by the 
state of Mrs. Hunter, unmans me." 

" How is she, sir, by this time ? " 

"Calm and collected, but sinking fast. You mu-it 
go up and see her. She said .she should like to bid 
you farewell." 

Through the warm corridors, so well protected from 
the bitter cold reigning without, Au.stin was conducted 
to the room of ]Mrs. Hunter. Florence, her eyes 
swollen with weeping, quitted it as he entered. She 
lay in bed, her pale face raised upon pillows; save for 
that pale face and the laboured brcatliing, you wmild 
not have su.spected the closing scene to be so near. SIio 
lifted her feeble hand and made pri.soner of Austin's. 
The tears gathered in his eyes as he looked down 
upon her, 

" Not fur me, dear Austin," she whispered, as .she 
noted the signs of .sorrow. "Weep rather for those 
who are left to battle yet witli Mils sad worM." The 
word.} caused Austin to wonder whether she c<»uld 



318 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

have become cognizant of the nature of Mr. Hunter's 
loner-continued trouble. He swallowed clown the 
emotion that was rising in his throat. 

" Do you feel no better ? " he gently inquired. 

" I feel well, save for the weakness. All pain has 
left me. Austin, I shall be glad to go. I have only 
one regret, the leaving Florence. My husband will 
not be long after me; I read it in his face." 

" Dear Mrs. Hunter, will you allow me to say a word 
to you on the subject of Florence ? " he breathed, 
seizing on the swiftly-passing opportunity. " 1 have 
wished to do it before we finally part." 

"Say what you will." 

" Should time and perseverance on my part bo 
crowned with success, so that the prejudices of Mr. 
Hunter l)ecome subdued, and I succeed in winning 
Florence, will you not say that you bless our union ? " 

Mrs. Hunter paused. " Are wo quite alone ? " she 
asked. 

Austin glanced round to the closed door. " Quite," 
he answered. 

" Then, Austin, I Avill say mure. .My hearty 
consent and blessing be upon you both, if you can, 
indeed, subdue the objection of Mr. Hunter. Not 
otherwise : you understand that." 

" Without her father's consent, I am sure that 
Florence would not give me hers. Have you any 
idea in what that objection lies ? " 



A GLOOMY CHAPTER. 319 

" I have not. Mr. Hunter is not a man \\ Ikj Avill 
submit to be questioned, even by rac. But, Austin, 1 
cannot help thinking that this objection to you may 
fade away — for, that he likes and esteems you greatly, 
I know. Should that time come, then tell him that I 
loved you — that I wished Florence to become your 
wife — that I prayed Ciod to l)lcss the union. An<1 
then tell Florence." 

" Will you not tell her yourself? " 

Mrs. Hunter made a feeble gesture of denial. "It 
would seem like an encouragement to dispute the 
decision of her father. Austin, will you say farewell, 
and send my husband to me ? I am growing faint." 

He clasped her attenuated hands in both his; he 
bent down, and kissed her forehead. Mrs. Hunter 
held him to her. 

"Cherish and love her always, should she become 
yours," was the feeble whisper. "And come to mo, 
come to me, both of you, in eternity." 

A moment or two in the corridor to compose him- 
self, and Austin met Mr. Hunter on the stairs, and 
gave him the me.s.sage. "How is Baxendale?" Mr. 
Hunter stayed to ask. 

"A trifle better. Not yet out of danger." 

" You take care to give him tlie allowance werkly ( ' 

"Of course I do, sir. It is due to-night, and I am 
going to take it to him." 

" Will he over be fit for work afrain { " 



920 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

«' I liopc so." 

Another word or two on the subject of Baxendale, 
the attack on whom Mr. Hunter most bitterly re- 
sented, and Austin departed. Mr. Hunter entered liis 
wife's chamber. Florence, who was also enter! n;,', 
^Iis. Hunter feebly waved away. "I would be a 
moment alone with your father, my child. James," 
Mrs. Hunter said to her husband, as Florence retired 
— but her voice was now so reduced that he had to 
bend his ear to catch the sounds — "there has been 
estrangement between us on one point for many 
years : and it seems — I know not why — to be haunt- 
ing my death-bed. Will you not, in this my last 
hour, tell me its cause { " 

"It would not give you pefvCe, Louisa. It concerns 
myself alone." 

" Whatever the secret may be, it has been wearing 
your life out. I ought to know it." 

Mr. Hunter bent lower. " My dear wife, it would 
not bring you peace, I say. I contracted an obliga- 
tion in my youth," he whispered, in answer to the 
yearnhig glance thrown up to him, "and I have had 
to pay it oft' — one sum after another, one after another, 
until it ha-s nearly drained me. It will soon be at an 
end now." 

" Is it nearly paid ? " 

" Ay. All but." 

" But why not have told me this ? It would have 



A GLOOMY CIIATTKR. 321 

saved me many a troubled liour. Suspense, when 
fancy is at work, is hard to bear. And you, James : 
why should simple debt, if it is that, have worked 
so terrible a fear upon you ? " 

'■ I did not know that I could stave it off: looking 
back, I wonder that I did do it, I could have borne 
ruin for myself: I could not for you." 

" Oh, James ' " she fondly said, " should I have been 
less brave ? While you and Florence were spared to 
me, ruin might have done its worst." 

Mr. Hunter turned his face away strangely wrung 
and haggard it looked just then. "What a mercy 
that it is over I " 

"All but, I .said," he interrupted. And the words 
seemed to burst from him in an uncontrollable im 
pulse, in .spite of himself. 

" It is the only thing that has marred our life's 
peace, James. I shall .soon be at rest. Perfect jieace ! 
perfect happiness ; May all we have love«l be there ! 
I can see " 

The words had been .spoken disjointedly, in the 
faintest whisper, and, with the last one died away. 
She laid her head upon hrr husband's ann. and 
.seemed as if she would slocp. He did not disturb 
her: he remained binifd in his own thoughts. A 
short while, and 5 lorence was heard at the door. Yix. 
Be vary was there, 

" You can come in," called out Mr. lluntcv- 

AUfe'sRecwt. 21 



322 A l.ll'Il'S SKCUKT. 

They approached the bed, Florence saw a change 
in her mother's face, and uttered an exclamation 
of alarm. The phj'sician's practisicd eye detected 
\\hat had hapi)onod: he made a sign to the nurse who 
had followed him in, and tho woman went forth to 
carry the news to the household. Mr. Hunter alone 
was calm. 

" Thank God ! " was his strange ejaculation. 

" Oh, papa ! papa ! it is death ! " .sobbed Florenoo, 
ill her distress, "Do you not sec that it is death ? " 

•' Thank God also, Florence," solemnly said Dr. 
Bevary, " She is better off." 

Florence sobbed wildly, Tho words sounded to her 
cars needles.sly cruel — out of place. Mr. Hunter bent 
liis face on that of the dead, with a long, fervent kiss, 
" My wronged wife ! " he mentally uttered. Dr. 
Bevary followed him as ho left the room. 

"James Hunter, it had b(>en a mercy for you had 
she been taken years ago." 

AFr. Hunter lifted his hands as if beating off tho 
words, and his face turned white. " Be still ! be still ! 
what can yov know ? " 

"I know as much as 3'ou," said Dr. Bevary, in 
tones which, low though they were, seemed to penetrate 
to the very marrow of the unhappy man. " Tho 
knowledge has disturbed my peace by day, and my 
rest by niglit. What, then, must it have done by 
yours ? " 



A GLOOMY CIIAPTKH. 323 

James Hunter, his hands held up still to shade his 
face, and his head down, turned away. " It was the 
fiiult of another," he wailud, "and I liavc borne the 
punishment." 

" Ay," said Dr. Bevary, " or you would liave had my 
reproaches long ago. Hark ! whose voice is that ? " 

It was one known only too w^ell to Mr. Hunter. 
He cowered for a moment, as he had hitherto had 
terrible cause to do : the next, he raised his head, and 
shook off the fear. 

" I can dare him now," he bravely said, turning to 
the stairs with a cleared countenance, to meet Gwinn, 
of Ketterford. 

He had obtained entrance in this way. The 
servants were closing up the windows of the hou.se, 
and one of them had gone outside to tell the 
gossiping servant of a neighbour that their good lady 
and ever-kind mistress was dead, when the lawyer 
arrived. He saw what was being done, and drew his 
own conclusion.s. Nevertheless, he desisted not from 
the visit he had come to pay. 

" I wi.sh to see Mr. Hunter," he .said, while the door 
stood open. 

"I do not think yon can see him now, sir," was 
the reply of the servant. " .My master is in great 
affliction." 

" Vour mistress is dead, I >nitpi)se ?" 

" Ju.st dead." 



324 A LIFE'S REf'RET. 

"Well, I shall not fletaiii Mr. Hunter many 
minutes," rejoined Gwinn, pushing his way into the 
hall. " I must see him." 

The servant hesitated. But his master's voice was 
heard. 

" You can admit that person, Richard." 

The man opened the door of the front-room. It 
was in darkness; the shuttei's were closed; so he 
turned to the door of the other, and showed the guest 
in. The soft perfume from the plants in the conserva- 
tory was wafted to the senses of Gwinn, of Ketterford, 
as he entered. 

"Why do you .seek me hjre?" demanded Mr. 
Hunter, when he appeared. " Is it a fitting time and 
place to do so ? " 

"A court of law might perhaps be more fitting," 
insolently returned the lawyer. " Why did you not 
remit the money according to promise, and so obviate 
the necessity of my coming ? " 

" Because I shall remit no more money. Not 
another farthing, or the value of one, shall you ever 
obtain of me. If I liave submitted to your ruinous 
and swindling demands, you knr)\v why I have dorve 

"Stopl" interrupted Mr. Gwinn. " Y<m have had 
your money's worth — silence." 

Mr. Hunter was deeply agitated. "As the breath 
went oUt of my wife's body, I thanked God that He 



A GLOOMY CHAPTER. .'^•25 

had taken her — that she was removed from the 
wicked machinations of you and yours. But fur the 
bitter wrong dealt out to me by your wicked sister 
Agatha, I should have mourned for her with regrets 
aiid tears. You have turned my life into a curse : 
I purchased your silence that 3*ou should not render 
hers one. The fear and the thraldom are alike over." 

Mr. Gwinn laughed significantly. " Your daughter 
lives." 

"She docs. In saying that I will make he*, 
cognizant of this, rather than supply you witl i 
another si.xpence, you may judge how firm is m" 
determination." 

" It will be startling news for her." 

" It will : should it come to the telling. Better that 
she hear it, and make the best and the worst of it, 
than that I should reduce her to utter poverty — and 
your demands, supplied, would do that. The news 
will not kill her — a.s it might have killed her mother." 

Did Lawyer Gwinn feel ])aftled ? For a minute or 
two he seemed to be at a lo.ss fur W(^i-ds. "I will 
have money," lie exclaimed at length. " You have 
tried to .stand out against it before now." 

" Man ! do you know that I am on the l)rink uf 
ruin?" uttoied Mr. Hunter, in deep e-\citemeiit, "and 
that it is you who have bnjught me to it ? lUii for 
the money supplied to you, 1 could luive weathered 
succes.sfully this contest with my wniknieii, as my 



326 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 

brother ami others arc weathering it. If you liave 
any further claim against me," he added in a spirit of 
mocking bitterness, " bring it against my bankruptcy, 
for that is looming near." 

" 1 will not stir from your house without a cheque 
for the money." 

" This house is sanctified by the presence of the 
dead," reverently spoke Mr. Hunter. " To have any 
disturbance in it would be most unseemly. Do not 
force me to call in a policeman." 

" As a policeman was once called in to you, in the 
years gone by," Lawyer Gwinn was beginning with 
a sneer : but Mr. Hunter raised his voice and his hand. 

" Be still ! Coward as I have been, in one sense, in 
yielding to your terms, I have never been coward 
enough to permit yoiL to allude, in my presence, to the 
past. I never will. Go from my liousc quietly, sir: 
and do not attempt to re-enter it." 

j\Ir. Hunter broke from the man — for Gwinn made 
an cfibrt to detain him — opened the door, and called 
to the servant, who came forward. 

" Show this person to the door, Richard." 

Ai) instant's hesitation with himself Avhether it 
slioiild be compliance or resistance, and Gwinn, of 
Kettcrford, went forth. 

" Richard," .said Mr. Hunter, as the servant clo.sed 
the hall-door. 

' bn- ? 



A GLOOMY CIIAPTKR. 327 

"Should that man ever come here again, do nut 
admit liini. And if he shows himself troublesome, call 
a policeman U) your aid." 

And then Mr. Hunter .^liut him.self in the room, and 
burst into heavy tears, such as are rarely shed by 
man. 



328 A LIFE'S SECIfET. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THK LITTLE BOY AT RP:ST. 

No clue whatever bad been obtained to the a.s.sailants 
of John Baxendale. The chief injury lay in the ribs. 
Two or three of them were broken : the head was also 
much bruised and cut. He had been taken into his 
own home and there attended to : it wa.s nearer than 
the hospital : thouf,di the latter would have been the 
better place. Time had gone on since, and he was 
now out of danger. Never would John Baxendale 
talk of the harshness of masters again — though, indeed, 
he never had much talked of it. The moment ^Ir. 
Hunter heard of the as.sault, he sent round his own 
surgeon, directed Austin to give Baxendale a .sovereign 
weekly, and caused strengthening delicacies to be 
served from his own house. And that was the same 
man whom you heard forbidding his wife and daughter 
to tbrward aid to Darby's starving children. Yes ; 
but Mr. Hunter denied the aid upon j)rinciple: Darby 
would not work. Jt pleased liim far more to accord 
it to I-5a.\endale than to deii\' it to l)arl)v: the one 



THE LITTLE BOY AT REST. .1^5 

course gladdened his heart, the other pained it. The 
surgeon who attended was a particular friend of Dr. 
Bcvary's, and the doctor, in his (juaint, easy manner, 
contrived to let Baxendale know that there would be 
no bill for him to pay. 

It was late when Austin reached Baxendale's room 
the evening of Mrs. Hunter's death, tidings of which 
had already gone abroad. 

" Oh, sir," uttered the invalid, straining his eyes on 
him from the sick-bed, before Austin had well entered, 
" is the news true ? " 

" It is," sadly replied Austin. " She died this 
afternoon." 

" It is a good lady gone from amongst us. Does 
the master take on much ? " 

" I have not seen him since. Death came cm, I 
believe, rather suddenly at the last." 

" Poor ^Irs. Hunter ! " wailed Baxendale. " Here is 
not the only .spirit that is this evening on the wing," 
lie added, after a pau.se. " That boy of Darby's is 
going. Mary " — looking on the bright sovereign put 
into his liaiids by Austin — " sup]»ose you get this 
changed, and go down there and take 'em a cou])le of 
shillings ? It's hard to have a cupboard quite empty 
when death's a visitor. " 

Mary came up from the tar end of the room, and 
put on her shawl with alacrity. She looked <>nly a 
shadow hei'self Au>tin W()ndered Imw Mi Hunter 



330 A LlFF/S SECRET. 

would approve of any of his shillings finding their 
way to IJarby'.s ; but he said nothing against it. But 
for the strongly expre.ssed sentiments of Mr. Hunter, 
Austin would liave given away right and left, to 
relieve the distre.ss around him : although, put him 
upon principle, and he agreed fully with Mr. Hunter. 
Mary got change for the sovereign, and took })Osses- 
sion of a couple of shillings. It was a bitterly cold 
evening"; but she was well wrapped up. Though not 
permanently better, Mary was feeling stronger of late : 
in her simple faith, she believed God had mercifully 
spared her for a short time, that she might nur.se her 
father. She knew, just as well as did Dr. Bevary, 
that it woidd not be for long. As she went along, .she 
met ^Irs. Quale. 

" The child is gone," .said the latter, hearing where 
Mary was going. 

" Poor child ! Is he really dead ? " 

Mrs. Quale ntulded. Few thing.** upset her equa- 
nimity. "And I am keeping my eyes open to look 
out for Darby," she added. "His wife asked me if 1 
Would. She is afraid " — dropping her vuicc — " that 
he nuiy ilo something ra.sh." 

" Why i " breathed Mary, in a tone of horror, under- 
standing the allusion. 

"Why i" vehemently roj)cated Mr.s. Qmde. "Why, 
because he reHects upon him.self — tliat's why. When 
he saw that the breath was really gone out of the 



THE LITTLE I^OY AT T.KST. 3.31 

poor little body — and that's not five minutes ago — 
he broke out like one mad. Them quiet natures in 
ordinary be alwa3-s the -worst if tliey get upset; 
thougli it takes a good deal to do it. He blamed him- 
self, saying tliat if lie liad been in work, and able to 
get proper food fur the boy, it would not have hap- 
pened ; and he cursed the Trades' Unions for mislead- 
ing; him, and briu'dng him to what he is. There's 
many another cursing the Unions on this inclement 
night, or my name's not Nancy Quale." 

She turned back with Mary, and they entered the 
home of the Darbys. Grace, unable to get another 
situation, partly through the baker's wife refusing 
her a character, partly because her clothes were in 
pledge, looked worn and thin, as she stood trying to 
hush the youngest child, then crying fretfully. ^Irs. 
Darby sat in front of the small bit of lire, the dead 
boy on her knees, pressed to her still, just as Mr.-:. 
Quale had left her. 

" He won't hunger aii}' more," .she said, lifting her 
face to Mary, the hot tears running from it. 

Mary stooped and kissed tlie little cold face. 
"Don't grieve," she murmured. "It would be well 
fur us all if we were as happy as he." 

"Go and .speak to him," whispered thr mother to 
Mrs. (^)ualc, j»ointing to a liack -dooi', wliidi l«d i" a 
sort of open .sculleiy. " II'' lius o^nwr in, and is gduo 
out there." 



§32 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

Leaning against the wall, in the cold moonlight, 
stood Robert Darby. Mrs. Quale was not very good at 
consolation : finding fault was more in her line. 
" Conie, Darby, don't take on so : it won't do no 
good," was the best she could say. " Be a man." 

He seized hold of her, his shaking hands trembling, 
while he spoke bitter words against the Trades' Unions. 

" Don't speak so, Robert Darby," was the rejoinder 
of Mrs, Quale. " You are not obliged to join the 
Trades' Unions; therefore there's no need to curse 
'em. If you and others kept aloof from them, they'd 
soon die away." 

" They have proved a curse to me and mine " — and 
the man's voice rose to a shriek, in his violent emotion. 
" But for them, I should have been at work long ago." 

" Then I'd go to work at once, if it was me, and put 
the curse from mc that way," concluded Mrs. Quale. 

With the death of the child, things had come to so 
low an ebb in the Darby household, as to cause 
sundry kind gossipers to suggest, and to spread the 
suggestion a.s a fact, that the parish would have the 
honour of conducting the interment. Darby would 
have sold himself first. He was at Mr. Hunter's yard 
on the following morning before daylight, and the 
instant the gates were opened presented himself to 
the foreman as a candidate for work. That functionary 
would not treat with liim. " We have had so many 
of you old hands ju.st coming on for a day or two, and 



THE LITTI.K ROY AT REST. 333 

then withdrawing again, througli orders of the society, 
or through getting frightened at being threatened, 
that Mr. Clay said I was to take back no more shillj- 
shallyers." 

" Try me ! " feverishly cried Darby. " I will not go 
from it again." 

"No," said the foreman. "You can speak to Mr. 
Clay." 

" Darby," said Austin, when the man appeared 
before him, " will you pass your word to rae to remain ? 
Here men come; they sign the document, they have 
work given to them ; and in a day or so, I hear that 
they have left again. It causes no end of confusion 
to us, for work to be taken up and laid down in that 
way." 

"Take me on, and try me, sir. I'll stick to it as 
long as there's a stroke of work to do — unless they 
tread me to pieces as they did Baxendale. I never 
was cordial for the society, sir. I obeyed it, and yet 
a (hnibt was al\va3's upon me whether I miglit not be 
doing wrong. I am sure of it now. The society has 
worked harm to me and mine, and I will never belong 
tt) it again. " 

"Others have .said as much of the socii'ty, and have 
returned to it the next day," remarked Mr. Clay. 

" Perhaps so, sir. Tluy hadn't .seen one of their 
children die, that they'd have laid down tluir own 
Ijves to save — but that they had not vorhcd to .lave. 



334 A LIFE'S SECRP^T. 

I have. Talce rue on, sir : He can't be buried till I 
have earned the wherewithal to pay for it. I'll stand 
to my work from henceforth — over-hours, if T can 
get it." 

Austin wrote a word on a card, and desired Darby 
to carry it to the foreman. " You can go to work at 
once," he said. 

" I'll take work too, sir, if I can get it," exchiime<l 
another man, who had come up in time to hear 
Austin's last words. 

" What I is it you, Abel White ? " exclaimed Austin, 
with a half-laugh. " I thought 3'ou made a boa.st 
that if the whole lot of hands came back to work, you 
never would, except upon your own terms." 

" So I did, sir. But when I find I have been in the 
wrong, I am not above owning it," was the man's 
reply, who looked in a far better jihysical condition 
than the pinched, half-starved Darby. " I could hold 
out longer, sir, without much inconvenience ; lea.st- 
ways, with a deal less inconvenience than .some of 
them could, for I and father belong to one or two 
provident clubs, and thoy have helped us weekly, and 
my wife and daughters don't do ami.ss at their umbrella 
work. But I have come over to my old father's views 
at la.st; and I have made my mind up, as ho did long 
ago, never to be a Union man again — unless the 
masters should turn round and make them.selves into 
a body of tyrants; I don't know what I might do 



THE LITTLE BOY AT REST. 335 

then. But there's not much danger of that — as father 
says — in these go-a-head days. You'll give me Avork, 
sir? 

" Upon certain conditions,"' replied Austin. And he 
sat down and proceeded to talk to tin- niau. 



336 A LIFE'S SKCRKT 



CHAPTER VII. 

MR. Dunn's pios brought to market. 

Daffodil's Delight and its environs wero in a state 
of bustle — of public excitement, as may be said. 
Daffodil's Delight, however low its condition might 
be, never failed to seize upon any possible event, 
whether of a general public nature, or of a private 
local nature, as an excuse for getting up a little steam. 
On that cold winter's day, two funerals were appointed 
to take place : the one, that of Mrs. Hunter ; the other, 
that of little William Darby : and Daffodil's Delight, 
in spite of the black frost, turned out in crowds to 
see. You could not have passed into the square when 
the larger funeral came forth, so many had collected 
there. It was a funeral of mutes and plumes and 
hoi"ses and trappings and carriages and show. The 
nearer Mr. Hunter had grown to pecuniary embarrass- 
ment, the more jealous was he to guard all suspicion 
of it from the world. Hence the display: which the 
poor unconscious lady they were attending would 
have been the finst to shrink from. ]\rr. Hunter, his 



MR. DUNN'S PIGS BROUGHT TO MARKKT. 337 

brother, and Dr. Bevary -were in tlie first mourning- 
coacli : in the second, -with two of the sons of Henry 
Hunter, and anotliur relative, sat Austin Clay. And 
more followed. That took place in the morning. In 
the afternoon, the coftin (jf the boy, covered by some- 
thing black — but it looked like old cloth instead of 
velvet — was brought out of Darby's house upon men's 
•shoulders. Part of the family followed, and pretty 
nearly the whole of Datiodil's Delight brought up the 
luar. There it is, moving .slowly down the street. 
Not over slowly either; for there had been a dela}' in 
some of the arrangements, and the clergyman must 
have been waiting for half-an-hour. It was a week 
since Darby resumed work ; a long time to keep the 
child, liut tlie season was winter. ])arby had paiil 
part of the expense, and had been trusted for the rest. 
It arrived at the burial-place ; and the little body was 
Ijuried, there to remain until the resurrection at the 
last day. As Darby stood over the grave, the regret 
for his child was nearly lost sight of in that other and 
far more bitter regret, the remorse of which was 
t<dling upon him. Ho had kept the dead starving fur 
months, when work was to be had for the asking! 

" J)on't take on so," whispered a neighl)our, who 
knew his thoughts. "If you had gone back to work 
as soon as tlie ^arils were open, yu'd onlv lia\i' lieen 
set upon and half-killed, as Ba.xendale was." 

"Then it would not, in that ease, have been my 

A Life's Secr< I. 2 J 



838 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

fault if lio haJ starved," returned Darby, witli com- 
pressed lips. " His poor hungr}'^ face 'II lie upon my 
mind for ever." 

The shades of evening were on Datt'odil's Delight 
when the attendants of the funeral returned, and Mr, 
Cox, the pawnbroker, was busily tran.saeting the 
business that the dusk hour alwa^'s brought liim. 
Even the ladies and gentlemen of Daffodil's Delight, 
though they were conunon sufferers, and all, or nearly 
all, needed to pay visits to Mr. Cox, imitated their 
betters in observing that peculiar reticence of manner 
which custom has thrown around the.se delicate 
negotiation.s. The character of their offerings had 
changed. In the first instance they had chiefly con- 
sisted of ornament.s, whether of the house or person, 
or of superfluous articles of attire and of furniture. 
Then had come necessaries : bedding, and heavier 
things; and then trifles — irons, saucepans, frying- 
pans, gowns, coats, tooLs — anything ; anything by 
which a .shilling could be obtained. And now had 
arrived the climax when there was nothing more to 
take — nothing, at least, that Mr. Cox would .speculate 
upon. 

A woman went banging into the .shop, and Mr. Cox 
recognized her for the most troublesome of his cus- 
tomei*s— Mr.s. Dunn. Of all the miserable households 
in Daffodil's Delight, that of the Dunn.s' was about 
the worst: but Mrs. Dunn's manners and temper 



MR. DrNX'S riOS BROUGHT To MARKKT. r.f) 

were fiercer than ever. The non-realization of hw 
fond liope of good clieer and sillc dresses was looked 
upon as a i»rivate injury, and resented as such. See 
her as she turns into the sliop : her head, a mass of 
torn black cap and entangled hair ; her gown, a black 
stuff once, dirty now, hanging in jags, and clinging 
round lier with that peculiar clinging which indicates 
that few, if any, petticoats are underneath ; her feet 
scuffling along in shoes tied round the instep with 
white rag, to keep them on! As she was entering, 
she encountered a poor woman named Jones, the wife 
of a carpenter, as badly reduced as she was. Mrs. 
Jones held out a small blanket for hor inspection, 
and spoke with the tears running down her checks. 
Aj)parently, her errand to Mr, Cox had been un- 
successful, 

" We have kept it till the last. We said we could 
not lie on the sack of straw this awful weather, with- 
out the blanket to cover us. But to-day we haven't 
got a crumb in the house, or a ember in the grate ; 
and Jones said, says he, ' There ain't no help lor it, 
you must pledge it' " 

"And Cox won't take it in?" shrilly responded 
Mrs. Dunn. 

The woman shook hoi- head, and the tears loll fast 
on her thin cotton shawl, as she walked away, " He 
says the moths has got into it." 

"A pity but the moths had got into him ! his eyes 



mo A LIFE'S SECRET. 

is sharper than they need be," shrieked Mrs. Dunn. 
" Here, Cox," dashing up to the counter, and flini^'ing 
on it a pair of boots, " I want three shillings on thcni." 

Mr. Cox took up the offered pledge — a thin pair of 
woman's boots, black cloth, with leather tips ; new, 
they had probal)ly cost five shillings, but they were 
now considerably the worse for wear. " What is the 
u.se of bringing these old things?" remonstrated Mr. 
Cox. " They are worth nothing." 

"Everything's worth nothing, according to you," 
retorted Mrs. Dunn. " Come ! I want three shillings 
on them." 

" I wouldn't lend you eighteen-pencc. They'd not 
fetch it at an auction." 

Mrs. Dunn would have very much liked to fling 
the boots in his face. After some dispute, she con- 
descended to ask what he would give. "I'll lend a 
shilling, as you are a custcxner, just to oblige you. 
But I don't care to take them in at all." ^More dis- 
pute ; and she brought her demand down to eighteen- 
pence. " Not a penny more than a shilling," was the 
decisive reply. " I tell you they are not worth that, 
to me." 

The boots were at length loft, and the .shilling 
taken. Mrs. Dunn solaced herself with a pint of 
half-and-half in a lioor.shop, and went home with the 
change. 

Upon no home had the strike acted witli worse 



MR. DUNN'S PIGS BROUGHT TO MARKET. 341 

efi'ects than upon that of the Dunns : and we are not 
speaking now as to pecuniary matters. They were 
just as bad as they could be. Irregularity had pre- 
vailed in it at the best of times ; quarrelling and 
contention often ; embarrassment, the result of bad 
management, frequently. Upon such a home, distress, 
long-continued, bitter distress, was not likely to work 
for good. The father and a grown-up son were out 
of work ; and the Miss Dunns were also without 
employment. Their patronesses, almost without ex- 
C(.'i)tion, consisted of the ladies of Daffodil's Delight, 
and, as may readily be conjectured, they had no funds 
just now to expend upon gowns and their making. 
Not only this : there was, from one party or another, 
a good bit of money owing to the sisters for past 
work, and this they could not get. As a set-off to 
this — on the wrong side — ihey were owing bills in 
various directions for materials that liad been long 
ag(j made up for their customers, some of whom had 
paid tliem and some not. Any tliat had not been 
paid before the strike came, remained unj)aid still. 
The Miss Dunns might just as well have asked for the 
moon as for money, owing or not owing, from the 
distressed wives of Daffodil's Delight. 

So, there they were, father, mother, sons, daughters, 
all debarred from earning iiKjney ; whilst all, with the 
younger children in addition, had to be kejit. 

It was wearying wuik, that force"! idleuews and 



342 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

tliat IbrcL'd famine ; and it worked badly, especially 
on the girls. Quarrelling they were accustomed to; 
enibarras-sment they did not mind ; irregularity in 
domestic affairs they had lived in all their lives; but 
tlu'y could not bear the distress that had now come 
upon them. Added to this, the girls were un- 
pleasantly pressed for the settlement of the bills 
above alluded to, Mrs. Quale had from the lii"st 
recommended the two sisters to try for situations: 
but when was advice well taken { They tossed their 
heads at the idea of going out to service, thereby 
giving up their liberty and their idleness. They said 
that it might prevent them from getting together 
again their business, when things should look up; 
they urged that they were not fitted for service, 
knowing little of any sort of housework ; and, finally, 
they asked — and there was a greal deal in the plea — 
how they were to go out whilst the chief portion of 
their clothes was in pledge. 

For the past few days certain mysterious movements 
on the part of Mary Aim Dunn had given rise to 
some talk (the usual expression for go.ssiping and 
scandal) in Daffodil's Delight. She had been almost 
continually out from home, and when asked where, 
had eva<led an answer. Ever ready, as some people 
are, to i)ut a bad construction upon thing.s, it was 
not wanting in tliis case. Tales were carried home 
to the father and mother, and there had been a scene 



MK. MXNS I'IGS UnOUGHT TO ^lAIUvKT. .^43 

of attack and abuse, on Mary Ann's presenting herself 
at home at midday. The girl had a fierce temper, 
inherited probably from her motlier ; she returned 
abuse for abuse, and finally ru.shed oflP in a passion, 
without having given any satisfactory defence of 
hei^self. Dunn cared for liis children after a fashion, 
and the fear that the reports must be true completely 
beat him down ; cowed his spirit, as he might have 
put it. Mrs. Dunn, on the contrary, ranted and 
raved till she grew hoarse ; and then, being excessively 
thirsty, stole ofi' surreptitiously with the boots to Mr. 
Cox's, and so obtained a pint of half-and-half 

She returned liome again, the delightful taste of tho 
beer still in her mouth. The room was stripped of 
all, save a few tilings, too old or too useless for Mr. 
Cox to take ; and, except for a little fire, it presented 
a comjilete picture of poverty. The eliihlren lay 
on the boards crying ; not a loud cry, but a distressed 
moan. Very /ittle, indeed, even of bread, did those 
children receive ; for James Dunn and his wife 
were too fond of beer, to expend in inucli else the 
triHe allowed them by the Trades' Union. James 
Dunn hud ju.^t come in. After the scene with his 
daugliter, when he had a little recovered liimself, he 
Went out to kcfj) an appointment. Sonic of the 
workmen, in a similarly distres.sed condition to 
himself, had been tliat day to one of the ])ol ice-courts, 
hoping to obtain pecuniary h<lp from (In- magistratoe. 



344 A tiFE'S SECRET'. 

The result had been a complete failure, and Dunn sat, 
moody and cross, upon a bench, his depression of 
spirit having given })lace to a sort of savage anger ; 
chiefly at his daughter Mary Ann, a little at things 
altogether. The pint of half-and-half upon an empty 
stomach had not tended to render Mrs. Dunn of a 
calmer temper. She addressed him snappishly. 

" What, you have come in ! Have you got any 
money ? " 

^[r. Dunn made no reply ; unless a growl that 
sounded rather defiant constituted one. 

She returned to the charge. " Have 3'ou got any 
money, I ask i Or be you come home again with a 
empty pocket ? " 

" No ; father hasn't got none : they didn't get any 
good by going there," interposed Jemima Dunn, a.s 
thuUi^h it were a satisfaction to <A\'c out the bad 
news, and who appeared to be looking in all sorts 
of corners and places, as if in search of something, 
"Ted Check told nie, and ho was one of 'em that 
went. The magistrate said to the men that there 
■was plenty of work open for them, if they liked 
to do it ; and Ids opinion was, that if they did not 
iike to do it, they wanted ])unishment instead of 
assistance." 

" Tliat's just my opinion," returned Mrs. Dunn, with 
intense aggravation. " Then- ! " 

James Dunn broke out intempcratel}', with violent 



MR. nUXX'S PIGS BROUGHT TO MARKET. 345 

words. And then he relapsed into his gloomy mood 
again. 

" I can't think what's gone with my boots," ex- 
claimed Jemima. 

"Mother took 'em out," cried a little voice from the 
floor. 

" What's that, Jacky ? " asked Jemima. 

" Mother took 'em out," responded Jacky. 

The girl turned round, and stood still for a moment, 
as if taking in the sense of the words. Then she 
attacked her mother, anger flashing from her eyes. 

"If you have been and took 'em to the pawnshop, 
you shall fetch 'em back. How dare you interfere 
with my tilings? Aren't they my boots? Didn't I 
buy 'em with m}- own money ? " 

" If you don't hold your tongue, I'll box your ears," 
shrieked Mrs. Dunn, M-ith a look and gesture as 
menacing as her tone. " Hold your tongue ! hold your 
tongue, I say, miss ! " 

'' I shan't hold my tongue," responded Joiiiiiiia, 
strufj<,ding between anger and tears. " I will have mv 
boots 1 I want to go out, I do! and how can I go 
barefoot ? " 

"Want U) go out, do you I " raved Mrs. Dunn. 
"Perhaps you want to go and ftllow your sisti-i- ' 
The ])Oota be at Cox's, and 30U may go there and get 
'em. Now, then ! " 

The words altoircther were calculated to increa.^e 



346 A LIFK'S SIX'RET. 

the ire of J;jiuima; they did so in no measured degree. 
She and her mother connnenced a mutual contest of 
rantini]: abuse. It mi<rht liave come to blows but for 
the father's breakinjjf into a storm of raw, so violent 
as to calm them, and frighten the children. It almost 
seemed as if trouble had upset his brain. 

Long-continued hunger — the hunger that for weeks 
and months never gets satisfied — will on occasion 
transform men and women into demons. In the house 
of the Dunns, not only hunger but misery of all sorts 
reigned, and this day seemed to have brought things 
to a climax. Added to the trouble and doubt regard- 
ing Mary Ann, was the fear of a prison, Dunn having 
just heard that he had been coHvicted in the Small 
Debts Court. Summonses had been out against him, 
hopeless though it seemed to sue anybody so help- 
lessly poor. In truth, the man was overwhelmed 
with misery — as was many another man in Daflbdil's 
DL'iight — and did not know wlicro to turn. After 
this outburst, he sat down on the bench a<;rain, 
administe'ing a linal threat to his wife for silence. 

Airs. Duuu stood against the bare wooden shelves 
of the dresser, her hair on end, her face scarlet, her 
Voice loud enougli, in its shrieking sobs, to alarm all 
the neighbours ; altogether in a state of Any. Disre- 
garding her husband's injunction for silence, she broke 
out into reproaches. 

" Was he a man, that he shouM lirin^ 'em to this 



MK. 1>UNK"S riGS BUOUGIiT tu MAltKKT. 347 

state of starvation, and then turn round upon 'em 
•with threats ? Wasn't she his wife ? wasn't they liis 
children ? If she was a husband and father, she'd 
rather break stones till her arms rotted off", but what 
she'd find 'em food I A laz}-, idle, drunken object ! 
There was the masters' yards open, and wliy didn't he 
go to work ? If a man cared for his own ftimily, he'd 
look to his intei'ests, and set the Trades' Union at 
defiance. Was lie a-going to see 'em took off* to the 
workhouse { Wlien his young ones lay dead, and she 
was in the poorhouse, then he'd fold his liands and be 
content with liis A^■ork. If the strike was to bring 
'em all this misery, what the plague business had he 
to join it ? Couldn't he have seen better ? Let him 
go to work, if he was a man, and bring Ikmuc a few 
coals, and a bit of bread, and get out a blanket or two 
from Cox's, and her gownds and things, and Jcmimar's 
boots " 

Dunn, really a peacefully inelinr.l iii;m by natuio, 
and wliose own anger had spent itself, let it go on U) 
this point. He then stoo^l up before licr, and \s itli a 
clenched fist, but calm voice of sui»i)ressed meaning, 
asked her what she meant. 

What, indeed! In the midst of Mrs. Dunn's re- 
proaclies, how was it she did in it cast a recollecti(tn to 
the past? to her own eagi'rne.-^s, public and private, 
for the strike ? liow she lm<l urged hei" husband on to 
join it, Ixiasting of the good times it was to liring 



348 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

them ? She could ignore all that now : perhaps really 
had almost forgotten it. Anyway, her opinions had 
changed. Misery and disappointment will subdue the 
fiercest obstinacy ; and Mrs. Dunn, casting all the 
blame upon her husband, would very much have liked 
to chastise him with hands as well as tongue. 

Reader! if you think this is an overdrawn picture, 
go and lay it before the wives of the workmen who 
suffered the miseries induced l)y the strike, and ask 
them whether or not it is true. Ay, and it is only 
j»art of the truth, 

" I wish the strike had been buried five-fathom 
deep, I do ! " uttered Dunn, with a catching breath 
that told of the emotion he strove to hide. " It have 
been nothing but a curse to us all along. And 
where's to be the ending ? " 

" Who brought home all this misery but you ? " 
recommenced Mrs. Dunn. " Have you done a day's 
work for weeks and months ? No, you haveri't ; you 
know you haven't' You have just rowed in the 
same boat with them nasty lazy Unionists, and let 
the work go a-begging." 

" Who edged me on to join the Unionists ? Who 
rci»roached me with being no man, but a sneak, if I 
went to work and knuckled down to the masters?" 
demanded Dunn, in his sore vexation. "It was you ! 
^'ou know it was you ! ^'ou wjis iire-hi>t foi' the 
strike: worse than ever tlu- men was." 



MR DUNN'S Pins BROUOHT TO MARKKT. 310 

"Can we starve?" said Mrs. Dunn, choking with 
passion. " Can we drop into our coftins with famine i 
Be our children to he drove, like Mar}' Ann " 

An interruption— fortunately. Mrs. Cheek came 
into the room with a burst. She possessed a tongue 
also, on occasions. 

"Whatever has been going on here this last half- 
hour ? " she inquired in a high voice. " One would 
think murder was being committed. There's a dozen 
listeners collected outside your shutters." 

"She's a-casting it in my teeth, now, for having 
joined the strike," exclaimed Dunn, indicating his wife. 
" She ! And she was the foremost to edge us all on." 

" Can one clam ? " fiercely returned Mrs. Dunn, 
speaking at her husband, not to liim. " Let him go 
to work." 

" Don't be a fool, Hannah Dunn," said Mrs. Cheek. 
" I'd stand up for my rights till I dropped : and so 
must the men. It'll never do to bend to the will of 
the masters at last. There's enough men turning 
tail and going back, witlmut the rest doing of it. I 
shouM like to .see Cheek attempting it: I'd be on 
to him." 

"Cheek don't \\ant to; ho have got no cau.^e to," 
.said Mrs. Dunn. " You get the living now, and find 
him in beer and bacca. ' 

"I do; and I am proinl on it," was Mrs. ( 'lirok's 
answer. "I goes washinLS 1 goes chairing, 1 goe:i 



350 A LIFK'S SF.CRKT. 

ironinij ; nothing: comes amiss to mo, and I inanacres 
to keep tbo wolf from the door. It isn't my husband 
that shall l)end to the masters. He shall stand up 
Avith the Unionists for his rij^hts, or he shall stand np 
against me." 

Having satisfied her curiosity as to the cau.se of 
the disturbance, Mrs. Cheek went out as .she came, 
with a burst and a bang, for she had been bent 
on some hasty errand when arrested by the noise 
behind the Dunns' closed shutters. What the next 
proceedings would have been, it is difficult to say, had 
not another interruption occurred. Mrs. Dunn was 
putting her entangled hair behind her ears, most 
probably preparatory to the resumption of the attack 
on her husband, when the oHending Mary Ann 
entered, attended by Mr.s. Quale. 

At it she went, the mother, hammer and tongs, 
turning her resentment on the girl, her language 
by no means choice, though the younger children 
were present. Dunn was quieter ; but he turned 
Ids back upon his daughter and would not look at 
her. And tlicn Mrs. Quale took a turn, and exercised 
hev tongue on both the parents: not with quite 
as much noise, but with greater effect. 

It appeared that the whispered suspicions against 
Mary Ann Dunn had been mistaken ones. The girl 
had been doing right, instead of wrong. Mrs. Quale 
had recommended her to a i)lace at a small dre.ss- 



m\. DUNN'S PIGS BROUGnT TO MARKI'T. 351 

maker's, partly of service, cliielly of needlework. 
Before engaging her, the dressmaker had insisted on a 
few days of trial, Avishing to see what lier skill at 
work was ; and Mary Ann had ke})t it secret, intend- 
ing a pleasant surprise to her father when the engage- 
ment should be finally made. The suspicions cast on 
her were but a poor return for this; and the girl, in 
her temper, had carried the grievance to Mrs. Quale, 
when the day's work was over. A few words of strong 
good sense from that talkative friend subdued ^[ary 
Ann, and she had now come back in peace. ^Irs. 
Quale gave the explanation, interlarding it Mith a 
sharp reprimand at their proneness to think ill of 
" their own fle.sh and l)lood," and James Dunn sat 
down meekly in glad repentance. Even ^Irs. Dunn 
lowered her tone for once. Mary Ann held out 
some money to her father after a rpiick glance at Mrs. 
Quale for approval. 

" Take it, father. It'll stop your going to pi iscn, 
l)crhaps. Mr.s. Quale has lent it me to get my clothes 
out, for I am to enter for good on my place to- 
morrow. I can manage without my clothes for a bit." 

James Dunn put the money back, .speaking softly, 
very much as if he had tears in his voice. 

" No, girl : it'll do you more good than it will iiu\ 
Mrs. Quale has been a good friend to you. Enter on 
your ])lace, and stay in it. It is the best new.s I'vo 
hrard tills many a da}'." 



352 A LIFE'S SFX'RET. 

" But if the money will keef) you out of jail, 
father ; " sobbed Mary Ann, quite subdued, 

" It wouldn't do that ; nor half do it ; nor a quarter. 
Get your clothes home, child, and go into your place 
of service. As for me — better I was in jail than out 
of it, " he added, with a sigh. " In there, one does get 
food." 

"Are you sure it wouldn't do you good, Jim 
Dunn ? " asked Mi's. Quale, speaking in the emergency 
he seemed to be driven to. Not that she would ha\e 
hel[)ed him, .so improvident in conduct and mistaken 
in opinions, with a good heart. 

" Sure and certain. If I paid this debt, others that 
I owe would be put on to me." 

" Come along, Mary Ann," said Mrs. Quale. " I 
told you I'd give you a bed at my hou.se to-night, 
and I will ; .so j'ou'll know where she is, Hannah 
Dunn. You go on down to Cox's, girl: get out as 
much as you can for the money, and come straiirlit 
back to me : I'm going home now, and we'll .set to 
woik and see the be.st we can do with the things." 

They went out together. But Mrs. Quale opened 
the door again and put in her head for a jiarting 
word ! remembering perhaps her want of civility 
in not liaving given it. 

" Good-night to you all. And pleasnnt dreams — if 
ypu can get 'em. You l^nionists have brouglit your 
nigs to a pretty market. " 



I 353 ) 



CHAPTER Vllt. 

A DESCENT FOR MR. SHUCK. 

Things were coming to a crisis. The Unionists had 
done tlieir best to hold out against the masters ; but 
they found the effort was beyond them — they must 
give in at last. The prospect of returning to work 
was eagerly welcomed by the greater portion of 
tlie men. Rather than continue longer in the 
wretched condition to which they were reduced, 
tliey would have gone back almost on any terms. 
Why, then, not have gone back before ? txs many 
asked. Because they preferred to resume work with 
the consent of the Union, rather than without it: 
and besides, the privations grew worse and worse. A 
few of the men were bitterly enraged at the turn 
art'airs seemed to be taking — of whom Sam Shuck 
was chief With the return of the hands to work, 
Sam foresaw no held for tl)e exercise of his t)wn 
peculiar talents, unless it was in stirring up fre«h 
discontent for the future. However, it wa« not yet 
finally arranged tiiat work should be resumed; a 

A LifuB Secret. 23 



354 A LIFE'S SFXHET. 

little more agitation luiglit lie i)leasaiit lirst, and 
possibly prevent it. 

" It's a few white-livered hounds among yourselves 
that have spoilt it," gi'owled Sam to a knot of hitherto 
.staunch fi icnd.s, a day or two suUsecpient to that con- 
jugal di.spute between Mr. and Mrs. Dunn, which we 
had the gratification of assisting at in the last chapter. 
"When such men as White, and Baxendale, and 
Darby, who have held some sway among you, turn 
sneaks and go over to the nobs, it's only to be expected 
that you'll turn sneaks and follow. One fool makes 
many. Did you hear how Darby got out his tools ? " 

"No." 

" The men opposed to the Union, opposed to us, 
heard of his wanting them, and they clubbed together, 
and made up the tin, and ]Jarby is to pay 'em back so 
much a-week — two shillings I think it is. Before I'd 
lie under obligation to the non-Unionist men, I'd 
shoot myself What good has the struggle done 

you?" 

" None," .said a voice. ''It have done a good deal 
of harm." 

"Ay, it has — if It is to die out in this ignoble way," 
said Sam. " Better have been slaving like dray- 
horses all along, than break down in the eftbrt to 
escape the slavery, and hug it to your arms again. If 
you hnd only half the spirit of men, 3'ou'd stop 
White's woik for awhile, and Darby's too, as you did 



A DESCENT FOR MR. SIILTIv. 355 

Baxendale's. Have you been thinking over what was 
said last night ? " he continued, in a lower tone. 

The men nodded. One of them ventured to express 
r.n opinion that it was a " dangerous game." 

"That depends upon how it's done," said Shuck. 
" Who has been the worse, pray, for pitching into 
Baxendale ? Can he, or anybody else, point a finger 
and sa}^ ' It w^as you did it ? ' or ' It was you ? ' Wh}% 
of course he can't." 

" One might not come off again with the like luck." 

" Psha ! " returned Sam, evincing a great amount of 
ridicule. 

" But one mightn't, Shuck," persisted his ad- 
versary. 

" Oh, let the traitors alone, to go their own way in 
triumph, if you like ; get up a piece of plate for them, 
with their names wrote on it in gold," satirically 
answered Sam. " Yah I it sickens one to see you true 
fellows going over to the oppressionists." 

"How do you make out that White and them he 
oppressionists { " 

" White, and them ? they are worse than oppres- 
sionists a thou.sand times over," fiercely cried Sam. 
"I can't find words bad enough for them. It isnt of 
them I spoke : I spoke of the masters." 

" Well, Shuck, there's oppression on all sides, 1 
think," rejoined one of the men. " I'd be glad to rise 
in tlie world if I could, and Id w<trk uver-houis to 



366 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 

help me on to it and to educate my children a l»it 
better than common ; but if you come down upon me 
and say, ' You shall not do it, you shall only work the 
stated hours laid down, and nobody shall work more,' 
I call that oppression." 

" So it is," assented another voice. " The masters 
never oppres.sed us like that." 

" What's fair for one is fair for all," said Sam. " We 
must work and share alike." 

" That would be right enough, if we all had talents 
and industry equal," was the reply. " But as we 
haven't, and never shall have, it can't be fair to put a 
limit on us." 

" There's one question I'd like to have answered, 
Shuck," interpo.sed a former speaker : " but I'm afeared 
it never will be answered wiih satisfaction to us. 
What is to become of those men that the masters 
can't find employment for ? If eveiy one of us was 
free to go back to work to-morrow, and sought to do 
so, where would we get it ? Our old shops be half 
filled with strangers, and there'd be thousands of us re- 
jected — no room for us. Would the Society keep us ? " 

A somewhat difficult question to an.swer, even for 
Slippery Sam. Perhaps for that reason lie suddenly 
called out " Hu.sh ! " and bent his head and put up his 
finger in the attitude of li.stening. 

"There's something unusual going on in the street," 
cried he. ' Let's see what it is." 



A DES(^KNT roi{ MR. SIHCK. 357 

They hurried out to tlic street, Sam leadiiiLj the 
way. Nut a genial street to gaze upon, tliat wintry 
clay, taking it witli all its accessories. Half-clothed, 
half-starved, emaciated men stood about in groups, 
their pale features and gloomy expression of despair 
telling a piteous tale. A different set of men entirely, 
to look at, from those of the well-to-do cheerful old 
days of work, contentment, and freedom from care. 

Being marshalled down the street in as polite a 
manner as was consistent with the occasion, was Mr. 
James Dunn. He was on his road to prison ; and 
certain choice spirits of Daffodil's Delight, headed by 
Mrs. Dunn, were in attendance, some bewailing and 
lamenting aloud, others hooting and )'elling at the 
capturers. As if this was not sufficient cause of 
disturbance, news arose that the Dunns' landlord, 
finding the hou.se temporarily abandoned by every 
soul — a chance he had been looking far — improvc<l 
the opportunity to lock the street-door ami keep them 
out. Nothing was before Mrs. Dunn and Iut elilMicn 
now but the parish Union. 

"I don't care whether it is the masters that have 
been in fault or wliether it's us: I know wliich side 
gets the .suffering," exclai II leil a mechanic, as Mr. Dunn 
was conveyed ]>eyond vi(!W. " ( )Id Abel White told 
us true; strikes never brought nothing liut misery 
yet, and tliey never will." 

Sam Shuck seized upon the circumstance to draw 



358 A LIFE'S SKORKT. 

aioiiml him a select au<lience, ami to hold ioith to 
tliein. Treason, ialse and pernicious thougli it ^^■rts, 
that he spoke, his oratory fell persuasively on the 
public ear. He excited the men against the masters ; 
he excited them to his utmost power against their 
fellows who had gone back to work ; he inflamed their 
passions, he perverted their reason. Altogether, ill- 
feelin;r and excitement were smouldering in an unusual 
degree in Daffodil's Delight, and it was kept up 
throughout the live-long day. 

Evening came. The bell rang for the cessation of 
work at Mr. Hunter's, and the men came pouring 
forth, a great many of whom were strangers. The 
gas-lamp at the gate shed a brilliant light, as the 
hands dispersed — some one way, some another. Those 
bearing towards Daffodil's Delight became aware, as 
they approached an obscure portion of the road which 
lay past a dead wall, that it bore an unusual ap- 
pearance, as if dark forms were hovering there. 
What could it be ? Not long Avero thoy kept in 
ignorance. There arose a terrific din, enough to startle 
the unwary. Yells, groans, hootings, hisses, threats 
were poured forth upon the workmen ; and they 
knew that they had fallen into an ambush of the 
Society's men. Of women also, as it ai)peared. For 
shrill notes and <ltlicate words of abuse, certainly 
only peculiar to ladies' thioats, were pretty freely 
mingled with the gruff tones of the men. 



A DESCENT FOR MR. F^HUCK. 359 

"You be nice niuc-hour chaps I Come on, if you're 
not cowards, and liavc it out in a fair Jiglit " 

"A fair light ! " shrieked a female voice in interrup- 
tion, " wl^o'd fight with them ? Traitoi's ! cowards ! 
Knock 'em down and trample upon V*m 1 " 

"Harness 'em together \\\i\\ cords, and drag 'em 
along like beasts o' burden in the face and eyes o' 
London ! " " Stick 'em up on spikes ! " " Hoist 'em 
on to the lamp-posts ! " " Hold 'em head down'ards 
in a horse-trough !" "Pitch into 'em ^ith quicklime 
and rotten eggs ! " " Strip 'em and give 'em a coat o' 
tar I " " Wring their necks, and have done with 'em I " 

Whilst these several complimentary suggestions 
w'ere thrown from as many difierent quartei-s of the 
assailants, one of them had quietly laid hold of Abel 
White. There was little doubt — according to what 
came out afterwards — that he and Robert Darby were 
the two men chiefly aimed at in this night a-ssuuit. 
Darby, however, was not there. As it happened, he 
had turned the contrary way on leaving the yaid, 
having j<)in<'d one; of the www wlxi had lent him sonic 
of the money to get his tools out of pledge, and gone 
towards his home witli him. 

" If thee carest for thy lif<\ thoc'll stop induois, and 
not go a-nigh Hunter's yard again to work I " 

Such wei'e the words hissed forlli in a hoarse 
Avhisper into the ear of Abel White, by the man who 
had seized njxin him. Abel peered at liim as l<ec;ily 



360 A T.TFF.'S SEfRF.T. 

as the darkness would pomiit. Whito was no coward, 
and although aware that this attack most probaV)ly 
liad liini for its chief Initt, he retained his composure, 
lie coukl not recognize the man — a tall man, in a 
large loose blue frock, such as is sometimes worn hy 
butchers, witli a red woollen cravat wound roughly 
round his throat, hiding his chin and mouth, and a 
seal-skin cap, its dark " cars " brought down on the 
sides of the face, and tied under the chin. The man 
may have been so wrapped up for protection against 
the weather, or for the purpose of disguise. 

" Let me go," said White. 

" When thee hast sworn not to go on working till 
the Union gives leave." 

" I never will swear it. Or .say it." 

" Then thee shall get every bone, in th' }»ody 
smashed, Thee'st been reported to Mr. Shuck, and to 
the Union." 

" I'd like to know your name aiid who you are," 
exclaimed Wliite. " If you are not disguising your 
voice, it's odd to me." 

" D'ye remember Baxendale ? Jle wouldn't take 
the oath, and he's lying with his ribs stove in." 

" More shame for you 1 Look you, man, you can't 
intimidate me. I am made of sterner stutl'than that." 

" Swear '-. " was the menacing retort ; " swear that 
thee won't touch another stroke o' work." 

" I tell you tliat I never will swear it," firmly 



A DEKCFAT FOR MR. SIHTK. ^ni 

returned White. "The T^nion has liooihviiikcil mo 
long enough ; I'll have nothing to «lo with it." 

"There be dospcrate men around ye — them a-^ 
won't leave ye with whole bones. You shall swear." 

"I'll have nothing more to do with the Union ; I'll 
never again oljey it," answered White, speaking 
earnestly, " There ! make your most of it. If I had 
but a friendly gleam of light here, I'd know who you 
are, and let others know." 

The confusion around had increased. Hot words 
were passing everywhere between the assailants and 
the assailed — no positive assault as yet, save that a 
woman had shaken her fist in a man's face and ppit 
at him. Abel Wliite strove to get away with the last 
words, })ut the man who had been threa,tening him 
struck him a sharp Idovv between the eyes, and 
another blow from the same hand caught him behinil. 
The next instant he was down. If one blow was 
dealt him, ton were from as many different hands. 
The tall man with the cap was busy M'ith his feet ; 
and it really .seemed, })y the manner h<> carrictl on thi' 
pa.stime, that his Avhole heart went with it, and that 
it was a heart of revenge. 

But who is thi.«, pushing his way tln-ougli the 
crowd with stern authority ? A policeman ? The men 
shrank back, in their fear, to givr him jilacf. No; it 
is only tlieir master, Mr. Clay. 

" What is this ? " exclaimed Atistiu, when he readied 



362 A LIFE'S SI-TRET. 

the point of battery. " Is it you, Wiiite ? " he atldcil, 
.stoo})in^ flown. " I suspected as nuich. Now, niy 
m^n," htj continued in a stern tone, as lie faced tlie 
excited tlnong, " who are you ? wliich of you has done 
this?" 

" The ringleader was him in the cap, sir — the tall 
one with the red cloth round his neck and the fur 
about his ears," spoke up White, who, though much 
maltreated, retained the use of his brains and his 
tongue. " It was him that threatened me ; he v,as 
the first to set upon me." 

" Who are you ? " demanded Austin of the tall man. 

The tall man responded by a quiet laugh of derision. 
He felt himself perfectly secure from recognition in 
the obscurity ; and though Mr. Clay was of powerful 
i'rame, more than a match for him in agility and 
strength, let him only dare to lay a tinger upon 
him, and there woi-e plenty around to come to the 
rescue. 

Austin Clay lu-ard the derisive laugh, subdiie<l 
though it was, and thought he recognized it. He took 
his hand from within the breast of his coat, and raised 
it with a hasty motion — not to deal a blow, not with 
a pistol to startle or menace, but to turn on a dark 
lantern ! No pistol could have startled them as did 
that sudden fla.sh of bright light, tlnown full upon the 
tall man's face. Off flew the fellow with a yell, and 
Austin coolly tumed the lantern upon others. 



A DESCKNT FOR MR. SIIITK. ;iG3 

" Bennct — and StiotKl — and Ryan — and Cassidy I " 
he exclaimed, recognizing and tolling oft' the men. 
" And you, Cheek ! 1 never .should have su.spected 
you of sufiicient courage to join in a thing of this 
nature." 

Cheek, midway between shaking and tears, sohhetl 
out that it was "the wife made him;" and Mrs. 
Clieek roared out from the rear, " Yes, it was, and 
she'd have shook the bones out of him if he hadn't 
come." 

But that light, turning upon them everywhere, was 
more than they had bargained for, and the whole lot 
moved away in the best manner that they could, 
putting the steal thiest and the quickest foot foremost ; 
each one devoutly hoping, saving the few whose names 
had been mentioned, that his own face had not been 
recognized. Austin, with some of his workmen Avho 
liad remained — the greater portion of them wore piir- 
Kiiing the vanqui.shod — rai.sf<l Abel Wliito. lii.s lir;id 
was out, his l)i)dy l)rui.sod, but no .st-riiiu.s daiiiagf 
appeared to have boon done 

" Can you walk witli assistance as far as .Mr. Rior's 
shop ? " a.skod Austin. 

"I dare .say lean, sir, in a iiiinutt,' : I'm a bit giddy 
now," was Whites-reply, as ho leanorl his back against 
the wall, Ix'ing su])portod on titlitr side. ".Sir, what 
a mercy that you had that light with yoti ! " 

"Ay," shortly Mjilicd Austin. " (Jualo, the bl 1 is 



304 A I.IFK'S SrX'IMlT. 

dripping u]ion your sleeve. I will Mivl iny handker- 
chief round your head, White. Meanwhile, one of you 
go and call a cah ; it may be better that we get hiin 
;t once to the surijeon's." 

A cab was brought, and White assisted into it. 
Austin accompanied Iiim. Mr. Rice was at home, and 
proceeded to examine into the damage. A few days' 
rest from work, and a liberal application of sticking- 
})laster, would prove efficacious in etiecting a cure, he 
believed. 

" What a pity but the ruffians could be stopped at 
this game ! " the doctor exclaimed to Austin. " It will 
come to more serious attacks, if they are not." 

" I thiidv this will do something towards stopping 
it," replied Austin. 

" Why ? flo you know any of them ? " 

Austin nodded. "A few. Jt is not a .second case 
,)f impossible identity, as was Baxendale's." 

" I'm sure I don't know how I am to go in home in 
tliis plight," exclaimed White, catching sight of his 
strapped-up face and head, in a small looking-gla.ss 
lianging in Mr. llice's surgeiy. " I shall frighten poor 
old father into a fit, and the wife too." 

"I will go on first, and prepare them," .said Austin, 
good-naturedly. 

Turning out oi' the shop on this errand, he found 
the door blocked up. The door I nay, the pavement — • 
the street; for it seemed as if all Daffodil's Delight 



A DESCENT FOR MR SHUCK. 365 

had collected there. He elbowed his way through 
them, and reached White's home. There the news 
had preceded him, and he found the deepest distress 
and excitement reigning, the family having been in- 
formed that Abel was killed. Austin reassured them, 
made light of the matter, and departed. 

Outside their closed-up home, squatting on the 
narrow strip of pavement, their backs against tlie 
dirty wall, were Mrs. Dunn and her children, howling 
pitiably. They were surrounded with waim par- 
tisans, who spent their breath sympathizing Avith 
them, and abusing the landlord. 

" How much better that they should go into the 
workhouse," exclaimed Austin. " They will perish 
with cold if they remain there." 

" And much }ou masters 'ud care," criud a wuinan 
who overheard the remark. " I hope you are satisfied 
now with the effects of y(nir fine lock-out 1 Look at 
the pour creatur, a-sitting there with her helpless 
children." 

" A. sad sight," observed Austin ; " but not the effects 
of the lock-out. You must look nearer home." 

The day dawned. Abel White was progressing very 
.satisfactorily. So much .so tliat Mr. Rice did not keep 
him in l)ed. It was liy no means so grave a case as 
Baxendale's. To the intense iMJiflcation of Dafff^dil's 
Delight, which had woke up in an unusually low and 
subdued state, there arrived, about niid-duy, certain 



366 A LIFi:S SFX'RET. 

officers within its precincts, holding warrants lor the 
apprehension of some of the previous night's rioters. 
Bennet, Strood, Ryan, and Cheek were taken ; Cassidy 
had disappeared. 

" It's a sliame to grab us ! " exclaimed timid Cheek 
shaking from head to foot. " White himself said as 
we was not the ringleadei's." 

Whilst these were secured, a policeman entered the 
liomc of Mr. Shuck, without .so much as saying, " Witli 
your leave," or " By your leave." That gentleman, who 
had remained indoors all the morning, in a restless, 
liumblc sort of mood, which imparted much surprise 
to Mrs. Shuck, was just sitting down to dinner in the 
bosom of his family: a savoury dinner, to judge by 
the smell, consisting of rabbit and onions. 

" Now, Sam Shuck, I want you," was the startling 
interruption. 

Sam turned as white as a sheet. Mrs. Shuck stared, 
and the children stared. 

" Want me, do you ? " cried Sam, putting as ea«<y a 
face as he could upon the matter. " What do you 
want mc for ? To give evidence ? " 

" Yoii know. It's about that row last night. I 
wonder you hadn't better regard for your liberty than 
to get into it." 

" Why, you never was such a fool as to put yourself 
into that I" exclaimed Mrs. Shuck, in licr surprise. 
" What could have possessed you ? " 



A DESCENT FOR MH. SHUCK. 367 

" I ' " retorted Sam ; " I duii't know iiii}- tiling aljout 
the row, except what I'vu heard. I was a good mile 
ott' from the spot wlien it took place." 

" All very well if 3-011 can convince the magistrates 
of that," said the officer. " Here's the warrant against 
you, and I must take you upon it." 

" I won't go," said Sam, showing fight. " I wasn't 
nigh the place, I say." 

The officer was peremptory — officers generally are 
so in these cases — and Sam was very foolish to resist. 
But that he was scared out of his senses, ho would 
probably not have resisted. It only made matters 
worse ; and the result was that lie liad the handcuffs 
clapped on. Fancy Samuel Shuck, Esquire, in liis 
crimson necktie with the lace ends, and the peg-tops, 
being thus escorted through Daffodil's Delight, himself 
and hi.s hands prisoners, an<l a tail the length of the 
street streaming after him ! 

You could not have got into the i)olice-court. Every 
avenue, every inch of ground was occupied ; for the 
men, both Unionists and non-Unionists, were gi-eatly 
excited, and came flocking in crowds to hear the 
proceeding.s. The five men were placed at the bar — 
Shuck, Bennet, Cheek, Ryan, and Stn>o<i : and Abel 
White and his bandaged head appeared against them. 
The man gave his evidence. How he and others — 
but himself, he thought, more particularly- had been 
met by a iuol-> the previous night, upon leaving work, 



368 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

a knot of the Society's men, avIio harl first threatened 
and then beaten him. 

"Can you tell wliat their motive was for doing 
this ? " asked tlie magistrate. 

"Yes, sir," was the answer of White. "It wa.s 
because I went back to work. I held out as long a.s 
1 could, in obedience to the Trades' Union ; but I 
began to think I was in error, and that I ought to 
return to work ; which I did, a week or two ago. 
Since then, they have never let me alone. They have 
talked to me, and tl'":eatened me, and persuaded me ; 
but I would nut listen ; and last night they attacked 
me."' 

" What were the threats they used last night ? " 

" It was one man did most of the talking : a tall 
man in a caj) and comforter, sir. The rest of tlie 
crowd abused me and called me names ; but they did 
not utter any })articular threat. This man said, 
Would I promise and swear not to do any more work 
in defiance of the Union; or else I should get every 
bone in my bod}' smashed. He toM mc to remember 
how Baxendale had been served, and was lying with 
his ribs stove in. I refused; I would not swear; I 
said I would never belong to the Union airain. And 
then he struck me." 

' Where did he strike yuu { " 

" Here, ' putting his hand up to his forehead. "The 
first blow staggered me and took away my sight, and 



A DESCENT FOR MR. SHUCK. 369 

the second blow knocked me down. Half-a-dozen set 
upon me then, hitting and kicking me : tlie first man 
kicked me also." 

" Can you swear to that first man ? " 

" No, I can't, sir. I think he was disguised." 

" Was it the prisoner. Shuck ? " 

White shook his head. " It was just his height and 
figure, sir; but I can't be sure that it was him. His 
face was partially covered, and it was nearly dark, 
besides ; there are no lights about, just there. Tiie 
voice, too, seemed di.sguised : I said so at the time." 

" Can you swear to the others ? " 

"Yes, to all four of them," said White, stoutly. 
" They were not disgui.sed at all, and I saw them after 
the light came, and knew their voices. They helped 
to beat me after I was on the ground." 

" Did they threaten you ? " 

" No, sir. Only the first one did that" 

"And him you cannot swear to? Is there any 
other witness who can swear to him ? " 

It did not appear that there wa.s. Shuck addressed 
the magietrate, his tone one of injured innocence. " It 
is not to be borne that I sliould be dragged up here 
like a felon, your worship. J was not near the i)lace 
at the time ; I am a.s innocent as 3'our worship is. la 
it likely / .should lend myself to .such a tiling ? My 
mission among the men is of a higher nature than 
that." 

A Life'!* ScCTv-t. 24 



370 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" Whether y<»u arc innocent or nut, I do not know," 
said his worship; "but I do know that this is a 
state of things which cannot be tolerated. I will (A\q 
my utmost protection to these workmen ; and those 
who dare to interfere with them shall be punished to 
the extent of the law : the ringleaders es})ecial]y. A 
per.son has just as much right to come to me and say, 
' You shall not sit on that bench ; you shall not 
transact the business of a magistrate,' as you have to 
prevent these industrious men M'orking to earn a 
living. It is monstrous." 

"Here's the witness we have Avaited for, please 
your worship," spoke one of the policemen. 

It was Austin Clay who cauic forward. He bowed 
to the magistrate, who bowed to him : they occasionally 
met at the house of Mr. Hunter. Austin was sworn, 
and gave his evidence up to the point when he tin-ned 
the light of the lantern upon the tall assaihiiit of 
White. 

" Did you recognize the man ? " asked the Bench. 

" I did, sir. It was Sanuiel Shuck." 

Sam gave a liowl, protesting that it was not — that 
\v) was a mile away from the spot. 

" 1 recognized him as distinctly as I recognize him 
at this moment," said Austin. " He had a woollen 
scarf on his chin, and a cap covering his ears, no 
doubt artsumed for disguise, but I knew him instantly. 
What is more, he saw that I knew him ; I am sure lie 



A DESCENT FOR MR. SHUCK. 371 

did, by the way lie slunk off. I also recognized his 
laugh." 

" Did you take the lantern with you purposely ? " 
asked the clerk of the court. 

" I did," replied Austin. " A hint was given nie in 
the course of yesterday afternoon, that an attack 
upon our men Mas in agitation. I determined to 
discover the ringleaders, if possible, should it take 
l)lace, and not to let the darkness baffle justice, as was 
the case in the attack upon Baxendale. For this 
purpose I put the lantern in readiness, and had the 
men watched when tliey left the yard. As soon as 
the assault began, my messenger returned to tell mc." 

" You hit upon a good plan, Mr. Clay." 

Austin smiled. " I think I did," he answered. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Samuel Shuck, another 
witness had .seen his face distinctly when the light 
was turned on ; and his identity with "the tall man 
disguised" wa.s established beyond dis])utc. In an 
evil hour, Sam had originated this attack on White; 
but, not feeling altogether sure of the courage of his 
men, he had determined to di.sguise himself and tako 
part in the business, .sa^'ing not u word to any ouo. 
He had not bargained for the revelation that might 
1)0 brought about by means of a dark lantern. 

The proceedings in court were pr(.»longed. l»ut they 
terminated at length. IJennet. Strood, and Ryan were 
condcnmcd to pay a iine oi live pounds each, or bo 



372 A LirE\S SECHFT. 

imprisoned for two months. Cheek managed to get oflT. 
Mr. Sam Shuck, to whom the magistrate was bitterly 
severe in his remarks — for he knew perfectly well the 
part enacted by the man from the first — was sentenced 
to six months at the treadmill, without the option of 
a fine. What a descent lor Slippery Sam 1 



( 373 ) 



CHAPTER IX. 

ON THE F.VE OF BAXKRUPTOY. 

These violent interruptions to the social routine, to 
the organized relations hetween masters and men, 
cannot take place without leaving their effects behind 
them : not only in the bare cupboards, the confusion, 
tiie bitter feelings while the contest is in actual pro- 
gress, T)ut in the results when the dispute is l)rought 
to an end, and things have resumed their natural 
order. You have seen some of its disastrous working 
upon the men: you cannot .see it all, for it would tako 
a whole volume to depicture it. 

But there was another upon whom it was promising 
to work badly ; and that was Mr. Hunter. At this, 
the (Seventh hour, when the dispute was dying out, 
Mr. Hunter knew that he would be unable to weathrr 
the ^hort remains of thr storm. Drainccl, as he had 
been at various periods, of sums jiaid to (iwimi, of 
K«'ttorford, he had not the necessary means to ,supi>ort 
the long-continued struggle. Capital he po.s.sosscd 
still ; and, had there been no disturbance, no strike, 



374 A LIFK'S SECRET. 

no lock-out — liad tilings, in short, gone on upon tlicir 
usual course Tinintcrruptcdly, his capital would have 
been sufficient to carry him on : not as it was. His 
money was locked up in arrested works, in buildings 
brought to a standstill, lie could not fulfil his con- 
tracts or meet his debts; materials were lying idle; 
and the crisis, so long expected by him, had come at 
last. 

It had not been expected by Austin Clay. Though 
aware of the shortness of capital, he believed that 
with care difficulties would be surmounted. The fact 
was, Mr. Hunter had succeeded in keeping the worst 
from liiin. It fell Upon Austin one morning like a 
thunderbolt. Mr. Hunter had come earl}' to the 
woiks. In this hour of embarrassment — ill as he 
might be, as he ivas — he could not bu absent from his 
place of busines.s. When Austin went into his master's 
])rivate room, he found him alone, poring over books 
and accounts, his head leaning on his hand. One 
glance at Austin's face told ^Ir. Hunter that the 
whispers as to the state of affiiirs, which were now 
becoming public .scandal, had reached his ears. 

"Yes; it is quite true," said Mr. Hunter, before a 
Avord had been spoken by Austin. "I cannot stavo 
it off." 

" But it will be ruin, sir!" exclaimed Austin. 

" Of course it will bo ruin. I know that, better 
than you can tell me." 



ON THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. ^75 

" Oh, sir," continued Austin, with earnest decision, 
"it must not be allowed to come. Your credit must 
be kept up at any sacrifice." 

*' Can you tell me of any sacrifice that M-ill keep it 
up ? " returned Mr. Hunter. 

Austin paused in embarrassment. " If the present 
difficulty can be got over, the future will soon redeem 
itself," he observed. " You have sufficient capital in 
the aggregate, though it is at present locked up." 

"There it is," said Mr. Hunter. "Were the cajtital 
not locked up, but in my hands, I should be a free 
man. Who is to unlock it r "' 

"The men are returning to their .shops," urged 
Austin. " In a few days, at the most, all will have 
resumed work. We shall get our contracts com])leted, 
and things will work round. It would be rice<Ucf<s 
ruin, sir, to stop now." 

" Am I stopping of my own accord ? Shall I put 
my.self into the Gazdic, do you suppose ? You talk 
like a child, Clay." 

" iSot altogether, sir. Wlial 1 .say is, that you arc 
worth more than sufticient to meet your debts; that, 
if the momentary ])ressure can be lifted, you will 
surmount embarrassment and regain case." 

" Half the bankruptcies we hear of arc cau.scd by 
lucked-up capital — not by positive non-po.sse.ssion of 
it," ob.sorved Mr. Himter. "Were my funds available, 
there would lie reason in what you say, and 1 should 



376 A LIFE'S RFX'RET. 

probably go on a^aiii to ease. Indeed, I know I 

should ; for a certain heavy — heavy " Mr. Hunter 

spoke with })er})loxed hesitation — "A heavy private 
obligation, which I have been paying off at periods, is 
at an end now." 

Austin made no reply. He knew that Mr. Hunter 
alluded to Gwinn, of Ketterford : and perhaps Mr. 
Hunter su.spected that he knew it. 

" Yes, sir ; you would go on to ease — to fortune 
again; there is no doubt of it. Mr. Hunter," he con- 
tinued with some emotion, " it miist be accomplished 
somehow. To let things come to an end for the sake 
of a thousand or two, is — is " 

"Stop!" said Mr. Hunter. "I see what you are 
driving at. You think that I might borrow this 
' thousand or two ' from my brother, or from Dr. 
Bevary." 

" No," fearlessly replied Austin, " I was not thinking 
of either one or the other. Mr. Henry Hunter has 
enough to do for himself just now — his contracts fur 
the season were more extensive than ours : and Dr. 
Bevary is not a business man." 

" Henry has enough to do," said Mr. Hunter. " And 
if a hundred-pound note would save me, I should not 
ask Dr. l^ovary for its loan. I tell you, Clay, there 
is no help for it: ruin must come. I have thought it 
over and over, and can seen no loophole of escape. It 
does not much matter : I can hide my head in obscurity 



ON THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. 377 

for the short time I shall probably live. Mine has 
been an untoward fate." 

" It matters for your daughter, sir," rejoined Austin, 
his face flushing. 

" I cannot help my.self, even for her sake," was the 
answer, and it was spoken in a tone that, to a fanciful 
listener, might have told of a breaking heart. 

" If you would allow me to suggest a plan, sir " 

"No, I will not allow any further discussion upon 
the topic," peremptorily interrupted Mr. Hunter. 
"The blow mu.st come ; and, to talk of it will neither 
.«oothe nor avert it. Now to business. Not another 
word, I say. Is it to-day or to-morrow that CJrafton's 
bill falls due ? " 

" To-day," replied Austin. 

"And its preci.se amount i' I forget it.' 

" Five hundred and twenty pounds." 

" Five hundred and twenty 1 I knew it was some- 
where about that. It is that bill that will floor u.s — 
at least, be the first step to it. How closely has the 
account been drawn at the bank ? " 

" You have the book by you, sir. I think there is 
little more than thirty pounds lying in it." 

"Just so. Thirty })ounds to meet a bill of five 
hundred and twenty. No other available funds to 
pay in. And you would talk of warding ofl" the 
difficulty?" 

"I think tlir bank wi)\ild pay it. wtir nil circunj- 



378 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

stances laid before them. Tliey have accommodated 
us before." 

" The bank will not, Austin, I have had a private 
note from them tliis mornin<^'. Tlicse Hying rumours 
liave reached their ears, and they will not let me over- 
draw even by a pound. It had struck me once or 
twice lately that they were becoming cautious." 

There was a commotion, as of sudden talking, out- 
side at that moment, and Mr. Hunter turned pale. 
He supposed it might be a ci'editor : and his nerves 
were so shattered, as was before remarked, that the 
slightest thing shook him like a woman. 

" I would pay them all, if I could," he said, his tone 
almost a wail. " I wish to pay every one." 

"Sir," said Austin, "leave me hero to-day to meet 
those matters. You are too ill to stay." 

" li' I do not meet them to-day, I nuist to-morrow. 
Sooner or later, it is I who nuist answer." 

"But indeed you are ill, sir. You look worse than 
you have looked at all." 

'• Can you Avonder that 1 look wor.se ? The striking 
of the docket against me is no [)leasant matter to 
anticipate." 

The talking outside now subsided into laughter, in 
which the tones of a female were distinguishable. ^Ir. 
Hunter thought he recognized them, and his fear of a 
creditor subsided. They came from one of his Momen- 
servants, who, uncon.scious of the proximity of her 



ON THE EVE OF BANKllUrTCY. 370 

master, had been laughing and joking with some of 
the men, Avliom she liad encountered upon entering 
the yard. " What can Susan want ? " exclaimed Mr. 
Hunter, signing to Austin to open the door. 

" Is that you, Susan ? " asked Austin, as he obcycl. 

" Oh, if you please, sir, can I speak a word to my 
master ? " 

" Come in," called out Mr. Hunter. " What do y<ju 
want ? " 

" Miss Florence has sent me, sir, to give you this, 
and to ask you if you'd please to come round." 

She handed in a note. Mr. Hunter broke the seal, 
and ran his eyes over it. It was from Florence, ami 
contained but a line or two. She informed her father 
that the lady who had been .so troublesome at the 
house once before, in years back, had come again, had 
taken a seat in the dining-room, removed her bonnt-t, 
and expressed her intention of there remaining until 
.she .should see ^Ir. Hunter. 

"As if I had not enough upon me without this!" 
muttered Mr. Hunter. " Clo back," he said aloud to 
to the .servant, "and tell Mi.ss Florence that I am 
coming." 

A few minutes given to tlie papers before him, 
a few hasty directions to Austin, touching (li'- 
btisine.ss of the liour, and Mr. Hunter ro.se to depart. 

"Do not c<»me back, sir," Austin repeated to him 
" I can iiiana<'e all." 



380 A LIFE'S RECUET. 

When Mr. Hunter entered liis own house, letting 
himself in with a latch-key, Florence, who had Itcen 
watching for him, glided forward. 

" She is in there, papa," pointing to the closed door 
of the dining-room, and speaking in a whisper. 
" What is her business here ? what does she want ? 

She told me she had as much right in t]v' house 

If> 
. 

"Hal" exclaimed Mr. Hunter. "Insolent, has she 
been ? " 

" Not exactly insolent. She spoke civilly, I 
fancied you would not care to see her, so I said she 
could not wait. She replied that she should wait, 
and I must not attempt to prevent her. Is she in 
her senses, papa ? " 

"Go upstairs and put your bonnet and cloak on, 
Florence," was the rejoinder of Mr. Hunter. " Be 
quick." 

She obeyed, and was down again almost innnedi- 
ately, in her deep mourning. 

" Now, my dear, go round to Dr. Bevar}', and tell 
him you have come to spend the day with liim." 

" But, i)apa " 

" Florence, go ! I will either come for you this 
evening or .send. Do not return until I do." 

The tone, though full of kindness, was one that 
might not be disobeyed, and Florence, feeling sick 
with some uncertain, shadowed-forth trouble, passed 



ON THE EVE OF BAKKRUPTCY. 3RI 

out at the hall-door. Mr. Hunter entered the dinuig- 
room. 

Tall, gaunt, powerful of frame as ever, rose up 
Miss Gwinn, turning upon liini her white, corpse-like 
face. Without the ceremony of greeting, she spoke in 
her usual ahrupt fashion, dasliing at once to her 
subject. 

"Now will you render justice, Lewis Hunter ? " 

" I have the greater right to ask that justice shall 
be rendered to me," replied Mr. Hunter, speaking 
sternly, in spite (»f his agitation. "Who has most 
cause to demand it, you or I ? " 

" She who reigned mistress in this house is dead," 
cried Miss Gwinn. "You must now acknowledge 
her." 

" I never will. You may do your best and w^orst. 
The worst that can come is, that it must reach \he 
knowledge of my daughter." 

"Ay, there it is! The knowledge of the wrong 
must not even reach her; but the wrong itself 1ms 
not been too bad for that other one to bear." 

" Woman !" continued Mr. Hunter, growing excited 
almost beyond control, " who inflicted that wrong i 
Myself, or you ? " 

The reproach told home, if the eliange to .s:id 
liumility, passing ovc^t Miss Gwinn's countenance, 
might be taken as an indication. 

"What I Hai<l, I said in self-d- fence ; after you, 



382 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

in your deceit, had brought wrong upon me and my 
family," she answered in a subdued voice. 

''TJiat was no wrong," retorted Mr. Hunter. "It 
was you who wrought all the wrong afterwards, by 
uttering the tenible falsehood, that she was dead." 

" Well, well, it is of no use going back to that," she 
impatiently said. " I am come here to ask that justice 
shall be rendered, now that it lies in your power." 

" You have had more than justice — you have had 
revenge. Not content with rendering my days a life's 
misery, you must also drain me of the money I had 
worked hard to save. ])o you know how much I " 

" It was not I," she passionately uttered, in a 
tone as if she would deprecate his anger. " He did 
that." 

" It comes to the same. I had to find the money. 
So long as my dear wife lived, I was forced to tem- 
porize : neither he nor you can so force me again. Go 
home, go home. Miss Gwinn, and i)ray for forgiveness 
for the injury you have done both her and me. The 
time for coming to my house with your intimidations 
is past." 

" What did you say ? " cried Miss Gwinn. " Injury 
upon J/OH ? " 

" Injury, ay ! such as rarely has been inflictod upon 
mortal man. Not content with that great injury, you 
must also <loprive mo c>f my substance. This week 
tlu' name of James Lcv.is Hunter will be in the 



ox THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. 383 

Gazette, on the list of bankrupts. It is you who have 
brouglit me to it." 

" You know that I have had no hand in tliat ; that 
it was he: my brother — and /<c»','' she said, "lie 
never should have done it had I been able to prevent 
him. In an unguarded moment I told liini I had dis- 
covered you, and who you were, and — and he came 
up to you here and .sold his silence. It is that which 
has kept me quiet." 

" This interview had better end," said Mr. Hunter. 
" It excites me, and my health is scarcely in a state to 
bear it. Your work has told u})on me, Miss Gwinn, 
as you camiot help seeing, when you look at me. Am 
I like the hearty, ojjen man whom you came u\) to 
town and discovered a few years ago ? " 

" Am I like the healthy unsuspicious woman whom 
you saw some years before that ? " she retorted. " My 
days have been rendered more bitter than yours." 

" It is your own evil passions which have rendered 
them so. But I say tliis interview must end. 
You " 

" It shall end when you undertake to render justice, 
I only ask tliat you .should acknowledge her in words; 
I avsk no more." 

" Wiien your brother was here last — it was on the 
day of my wife's death — I wa.s forced tit warn liiiii of 
the consequences of rcinaining in my house against 
my will. I nmsL now warn you. " 



384 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

*' Lewis Hunter," she passionately resumed, " for 
years I have been told that she — who was here — was 
fadinor • and I was content to wait until she should be 
gone. Besides, was not he drawing money from you 
to keep silence ? But it is all over, and my time is 
come." 

The door of the room opened and some one entered. 
Mr. Hunter turned with marked displeasure, wonder- 
ing who was daring to intrude u{)on him. He saAV 
— not any servant, as he expected, but his brother-in- 
law, Dr. Bevary. And the doctor walked into the 
room and closed the door, just as if he had as much 
right there as its master. 

When Florence Hunter reached her uncle's house, 
she found him absent : the .servants said he had gone 
out early in the morning. Scarcely had she entered 
the drawing-room when his carriage drove up : he .saw 
Florence at the window and hastened in. 

" Uncle Bevary, I have come to stay the day with 
you," was her greeting. " Will you have me ? " 

" I don't know that I will," returned the doctor, who 
loved Florence above every earthly thing. " How 
comes it about ? " 

In the explanation, as she gave it, the doctor de- 
tected some embarrassment, quite difiereiit from her 
usual open mannor. He questioned closely, and drew 
from her what had occurred. 

" Miss Gwinn, of Ketterford, in town ? " he exclaimed, 



ON THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. 385 

staring at Florence as if ho could not believe her, 
" iVi-e you joking ? " 

" She is at our house with papa, as I tell you, uncle." 

" What an extraordinary chance ! " muttered tho 
doctor. 

Leaving Florence, he ran out of the house and down 
the street, calling after his coachman, who was driving 
to the stables. Had it been any one but Dr. Bevary, 
the passers-by might have deemed the caller mad. 
The coachman heard, and turned his horses again. 
Dr. Bevary spoke a word in haste to Florence. 

"Miss Gwinn is the very person I was wanting to 
see; wishing some marvellous telegraph wires could 
convey her to London at a moment's notice. Maku 
yourself at home, my dear ; don't wait dinner for me, 
I cannot tell when I shall be back." 

He stepped into the carriage and was driven away 
very quickly, leaving Florence in some doubt as to 
whether he had not gone to Ketterford — for she had 
only imperfectly understood him. Not so. Tho 
carriage set him down at Mr. Hunter's. Where ho 
broke in upon tlic interview, as has been described. 

"I was about to telegraph to Ketterford for 3<)n," 
he began to Miss Owinn, without any other sort of 
greeting. And the words, coupled with his alirupt 
manner, sent her at once into an agitation 111:. ing, 
.she put her hand upon the doctor's arm. 

" What has happened ? Any ill ? " 

A l.ifi-'s S.vr't. 25 



386 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

" You must come with mo now auil soo her," was 
tho brief answer. 

Shaking from head to foot, gaunt, strong woman 
tliougli she was, she turned docilely to follow the 
doctor from the room. But suddenly an idea seemed 
to strike her, and she stood still. 

" It is a ruse to get me out of the house. Dr. 
Bevary, I will not quit it until justice shall bo rendered 
to Emma. I will have her acknowledged by hira." 

" Your going with mo now will make no difterenco 
to that, one way or the other," drily observed Dr. 
Bevary. 

]\Ir. Hunter stepped forward in agitation. "Are 
you out of your mind, Bevary ? Yon could not have 
caught her words correctly." 

" Psha : " responded the doctor, in a careless tone. 
" What I said was, that Miss Gwinn's going out with 
me could make no difierence to any acloiowledgment." 

'* Only in words," she stayed to say, " Just let him 
say it in words." But no one took any notice of tho 
suggestion. 

His bearing calm and self-po.ssessed,. his manner 
authoritative, Dr. Bevary passed out to his carriage, 
motioning the lady before him. Self-willed as she 
was by nature and by habit, slic appeared to have no 
thought of resistance now. " Step in," said Dr. Bevary-, 
She obeyed, and he seated himself by her, after giving 
an order to the coachman. 



ox THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. 387 

The carriage turned towards the west for a short 
distance, and then branched off to the north. In a 
comparatively short time they were clear of the bustle 
of London. Miss Gwinn sat in silence; the doctor sat 
in silence. It seemed that the former wished, yet 
dreaded to ask the purport of their present journey, 
for her white face was working with emotion, and she 
glanced repeatedly at tlic doctor, witli a sharp, yearn- 
ing look. When they were clear of the bustle of the 
streets ; and the hedges, bleak and bare, bounded the 
road on either side, broken by a house here and there, 
then she could bear the silence and suspense no 
longer. 

" Why do you not speak ? " broke from her in a 
tone of pain. 

"First of all, tell me what brought you to town 
now," was his reply. " It is not your time for being 
here." 

"The recent death of your sister. 1 came uj) by 
the early train this morning. Dr. Jievary, 3()U are 
the only living being to whom I lie under an obliga- 
tion, or from whom I have experienced kindness. 
People may think me ungrateful; some tliink nir 
mad; but I am grateful to you. r>ut for the fact of 
that lady being your sister I shoukl have insisted 
U[)on another's rights being acknowledged long ago." 

" You told me you waived them in con.scquencc of 
your brother's conduct." 



388 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

"Partially so. But that did not weigh with nio in 
comparison with my feeling of gratitude to you. How 
impotent wc arc!" she exclaimed, throwing up her 
liands. "My efforts by day, my dreams by night, 
wore directed to one single point through long, long 
years — the finding James Lewis. I had cherished the 
thought of revenge until it became part and parcel of 
my very existence; I was hoping to expose him to 
the world. But when the time came, and I did find 
him, I found that he had married your sister, and 
that I could not touch him without giving pain to 
you. I hesitated what to do. I went home to Kettcr- 
ford, deliberating " 

" Wf.'U ? " said the doctor. For she had stopped 
abrui)tly. 

" Some spirit of evil prompted mo to disclose to my 
good-for-nothing brother that the man, Lewis, was 
found. I told him more than that, unhappily." 

" What else did you tell him ? " 

" Never mind. I was a fool : and I have had my 
reward. My brother came up to town and drew largo 
sums of money out of Mr. Hunter. I could have 
stopped it — but I did not." 

" If I understand you rightly, you have come to 
town now to insist upon wliat you call your rights?" 
remarked the doctor. 

"Upon what / call! returned Miss Gwinn, and 
then she paused in marked hesitation. "But you 



ON THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. 389 

must have news to tell me, Dr. Be vary. What is 
it?" 

" I received a message early this morning from Dr. 
Kerr, stating that something Avas amiss. I lost no 
time in '^oinf? over." 

" And what was amiss ? " she hastily cried. " Surely 
there was no repetition of the violence ? Did you see 
her ? " 

" Yes, I saw her." 

" But of course you would see her," resumed Miss 
Gwinn, speaking rather to herself. " And what do 
you think ? Is there danger ? " 

" The danger is past," replied Dr. Bevary. " But 
here we are." 

The carriage had driven in through an inclosed 
avenue, and was stopping before a large mansion : not 
a cheerful mansion, for its grounds were surrounded 
by dark trees, and some of its windows were barred. 
It was a lunatic asylum. It is necessary, even in 
these modern days of gentle treatment, to take some 
precaution of bars and bolts ; but the inmates of this 
one were thoroughly well cared for, in tlic best sen.se 
of the term. ])r. Bevary was one of its visiting 
inspectors. 

Dr. Kerr, the resident manager, came forward, an<i 
Dr. Bevary turned to ^Miss Clwinn. " Will you see 
her, or not ? " he awked. 

Strange fears were working within her, Dr. Ikvary's 



390 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

manner was so ditierent iVoui ordinary. "I think I 
see it all," she gasped. " The worst has happened." 

"The l)cst has happened," responded Dr. Bevary. 
" Miss Gwinn, you have requested mc more than once 
to bring you hero without preparation should the 
time arrive — for that you could bear certainty, but 
not suspense. Will you see her ? " 

Her face had grown white and rigid as marble. 
Unable to speak, she pointed forward with her liand. 
Dr. Bevary drew it within his own to support her. 

In a clean, cool chamber, on a pallet bed, lay a dead 
woman. Dr. Kerr gently drew back the snow-white 
sheet with which the face was covered. A pale, 
placid face, with a little band of light hair folded 
underneath the cap. She — Miss Gwinn — did not stir : 
Rhe gave way to neither emotion nor violence ; but 
her bloodless lips were strained back from her teeth, 
and her face was as white as that of the dead. 

" God's ways are not as our ways," whispered Dr. 
Bevary. " You have been acting for revenge : He lias 
sent peace. Whatsoever He does is for the best." 

She made no reply : she remained still and rigid. 
Dr. Bevary stroked the left hand of the dead, lying in 
its utter stillness — stroked, as if unconsciously, the 
wedding-ring on the third lincjer. He had been led to 
believe that it was placed on that finger, years and 
years ago, by his brother-in-law, James Lewis Hunter. 
And had been led to believe a lie ! And she who ha«l 



ON THE EVE OF BANKRUPTCY. 391 

invented the lie, uho had wrought the delusion, who 
had embittered Mr. Hunter's life with the same dread 
belief, stood there at the doctor's side, looking at the 
dead. 

It is a solemn thing to persist though onl}- tacitly 
in the acting of a vile falsehood, in the mj'sterious 
presence of death. Even Miss Gwinn was not stroni;- 
minded enough for that. As Dr. Be vary turned to 
her with a remark upon the past, she burst forth into 
a cry, and gave utterance to words that fell upon tlie 
physician's ear like a healing balm, soothing and 
binding up a long-open wound. 



392 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE YEAUS GONE 15Y. 

Those readers will be disaj)pointed who look for any 
very romantic denoihnent of "A Life's Secret." The 
story is a short and sad one. Suggesting the wretched- 
ness and evil that may result when truth is deviated 
from ; the lengths to which a blind, unholy desire for 
revenge will carry an ill-regulated spirit ; and showing 
how, in the moral government of the world, sin casts 
its baleful consecjuences upon the innocent as well as 
upon the guilty. 

When the carriage of Dr. Bcvary, containing liimsclf 
and Miss Gwinn, drove from Mr. Hunter's door on the 
unknown errand, he — Mr. Hunter — staggered to a 
seat, rather than walked to it. That he was very ill 
that day, both mentally and bodily, he was only too 
conscious of. Austin Clay liad said to him, " Do not 
return : I will manage," or words to that effect. At 
l)resent Mr. Hunter felt himself incapable of returning. 
He sank down in the easy-chair, and closed his eyes, 
his thoughts thrown back to the past. An ill-starred 



THE YEARS GONE BY. 3?3 

past : one that had left its bane on his after-life, and 
M'hose consequences had clung to him. 

It is impossible but that ill-doing must leave its 
results behind : tlie laws of God and man alike 
demand it. Mr. Hunter, in early life, had been l>e- 
trayed into committing a wrong act; and Miss Gwiim, 
in the gratification of her passionate revenge, had 
visited it upon him all too heavily. Heavily, most 
heavily was it pressing upon him now. That unhappy 
visit to Wales, which had led to all the evil, was 
especially present to his mind this day. A handsome 
young man, in the first dawn of manhood, lie had 
gone to the fashionable Welsh watering-place — partly 
to renew a waste of strength more imaginary than 
real ; partly in the love of roving natural to youth ; 
partly to enjoy a few weeks' relaxation. "If you 
want good and comfortable lodgings, go to Mi.ss 
Gwinn's house on the South Parade," some friend, 
whom he encountered at his journey 's-cnd, had said 
to him. And to Miss Gwinn's he went. 

He found Miss Gwinn a cold, proud woman— it 
was she whom you have seen — bearing the maiiiK'r?< 
f)f a lady. The servant who waited upon him was 
gaiTulou.s, and proclaimed, at the first interview, 
amid.st other gossip, that her mistress had only a 
limited income — a Inmdred, or a hundrc'<l and lift}' 
pounds a-year, she believed ; that slie jireferred to ckc 
it out l>y letting her drawing-room and adjoining bed- 



394 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

room, and to live well ; rather than to rusticate and 
pineli. Miss Gwinn and her motives were nothing to 
the young sojourner, and he turned a careless, if not a 
deaf ear, to the gossip. " She does it chiefly for the 
sake of Miss Emma," added the girl : and the listener 
so far roused himself as to ask apathetically "who 
"Miss Emma" was. It was her mistress's young 
sister, the girl replied : there must be twenty good 
years between them. Miss Emma was but nineteen, 
and had just come home from boarding-school : her 
mistress had brought her up ever since her mother 
died. Miss Emma was not at home now, but was 
expected on the morrow, she went on. Mi.ss Emma 
was not without her good looks, but her mistress took 
care they should not be seen by everybody. She'd 
hardly let her go about the house when strangers 
were in it, lest she should be met in the passages. 
Mr. Hunter laughed. CJood looks had attractions 
for him in those days, and he determined to see for 
himself, in spite of Miss Gwinn, whether ]\Iiss 
Emma's looks were so good that they might not be 
looked at. 

Now, by the merest accident — at least, it happened 
})y accident in the first instance, and not by intention 
— one chief point of complication in the future ill was 
unwittingly led to. In this early stage of the aflfair, 
whilst the servant-maid was exercising her tongue in 
these items of domestic news, the friend who had 



THE YEARS GONE BY. 305 

recommended Mr. Hunter to tlie apartments, arrivcil 
at the house and called out to him from the foot of 
the stairs his high clear voice echoing through the 
house. 

" Lewis ! Will you come out and take a stroll ? " 

Lewis Hunter hastened down, proclaiming his 
acquiescence, and the maid proceeded to the parlour 
of her mistress. 

"The gentleman's name is Lewis, ma'am. You said 
you forgot to ask it of him." 

Miss Gwinn, methodical in all she did, took a slieet 
of note-paper, and inscribed the name upon it, " Mr. 
Lewis," as a reminder for the time when she should 
require to make put his bill. "When ^Mr. Hunter found 
out their error — for the maid henceforth addressed 
him as " Mr. Lewis," or " Mr. Lewis, sir ' — it rather 
amused him, and he did not correct the mistake. He 
had no motive wliatever for concealing his name : lie 
did n<^ wish it concealed. On the other liand, 
lie deemed it of no importance to set them right; it 
signitied not a jot to him whether they called him 
" Mr. Lewis " or " Mr. Hunter." Thus they knew him 
tm, and believed him to be, Mr. Lewis only. He never 
took the trouble to imdcceive them, and notliing 
occurred to re<^uirc the mistake to be corrected. The 
one or two letters only which arrived for him — for ho 
had gone there for idleness, not to correspond with bin 
friends — were addi-essed in tin- post-<iflice. in nccoi-d- 



396 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

ance with his primary directions, not having known 
where he should lodge. 

Miss Emma came home : a very pretty and agree- 
able girl. In the narrow passage of the house — one 
of those shallow residences built for letting apartments 
at the sea-side — she encountered the stranger, wlio 
happened to be going out as she entered. He lifted 
his hat to her. 

" "Who is that, Nancy ? " she asked of the chattering 
maid. 

" It's the new lodger, Miss Emma : Lewis his name 
is. Did you ever see such good looks ? And he ha.s 
asked a thousand questions about you." 

Now, the fact was, Mr. Hunter — stay, we will also 
call him Mr. Lewis for the time being, as tliey had 
fallen into the error, and it may be convenient to us 
to do so — had not asked a single question about the 
young lady, saving the one when her name was first 
spoken of, "Who is Miss Emma?" Nancy had sup- 
plied information enough for a "thousand" questions, 
unasked ; and perhaps she saw no dift'ercnce. 

' Have you made any acquaintance with Mr. Lewis, 
Agatha ? " Emma inquired of her sister. 

" When do I make acquaintance with the people who 
take my apartments ? " replied Miss Gwinn, in tones 
of reproof. " They naturally look down upon me as a 
letter of lodgings — and I am not one to bear that." 

Now comes the unhappy talc. It ohall be glanced 



THE YEARS GONE BY. 397 

at as briefly as possible in detail ; but it is necessary 
that parts of it should be explained. 

Acquaintanceship sprang up between ^Fr. Lewis 
and Emma Gwinn. At first tliey met in the town, or 
on the beach, accidentally ; latei", I very much tear 
that the meetings .vere tacitly, if not openly, more 
intentional. Both were agreeable, both were young; 
and a liking for each other's society arose in each of 
them. Mr. Lewis found his time hang somewhat 
heavily on his hands, for his friend had left ; and 
Emma Gwinn was not prevented from walking out 
as she pleased. Only one restriction was laid upon 
her by her si.ster : " Emma, take care that you make 
no acquaintance with strangers, or sulier it to bo 
made with you. Speak to none." 

An injunction which Mi.ss Emma disobeyed. She 
disobeyed it in a particularly marked manner. It 
was not only that she did permit Mr. Lewis t(j make 
acquaintance with her, but she allowed it to ripen 
into intimacy. Worse still, the meetings, I .say, from 
having been at first really accidental, grew to bo 
sought for. Sought for on the one side as much as on 
the other. Ah ! young ladies, I wish this little history 
could be a warning to you, never to deviate from the 
strict line of right — never to stray, by so nnich as a 
thoughtless step, from the straight ]>ath of duty. 
Once allow yourselves to do .so, and you know not 
where it may end. Slight acts of di.sol>cdienco, that 



398 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

appear in themselves as the merest trities, may yet be 
fraught with incalculable mischief. The falling into 
the liabit of passing a pleasant hour of intercourse 
with ^Ir. Lewis, sauntering on the V>cach in social and 
intellectual converse — and it was no worse — appeared 
a very venial offence to Emma Gwinn. But she did 
it in direct disobedience to the command and wish of 
her sister; and she knew that she so did it. She 
knew also that .she owed to that sister, who had 
brought her up and cared for her from infancy, the 
allefiriance that a child gives to a mother. In this 
stage of tlie affair, she was chiefly to blame. Mr. 
Lewis did not suppose that blame attached to him. 
There was no reason why he .should not while away 
an occasional hour in pleasant chat witli a young lady ; 
there was no harm in the meetings, taking them in 
the abstract. The blame lay with licr. It is no 
excuse to urge that Miss Gwinn exercised over her a 
too strict authority, that she kept her secluded from 
society with an unusually tight liand. Miss Gwinn 
had a motive in this: her sister knew nothing of it, 
and resented the restriction as a personal wrong. To 
elude her vigilance, and walk about witli a handsome 
young man, .seemed a justifialtle return, and poor 
Kmma Gwinn never dreamt of any ill result. 

At length it was found out by Aliss Gwinn. She 
did not find out much. Indeed, there was not much 
to find, excej)t that there was more friendship between 



THE YEARS GONE BY 399 

Mr. Lewis and Emma than there was between Air. 
Lewis and herself, and that they often met to stroll 
on the beach, and enjoy the agreeable benefit of the 
sea-breezes. But that was quite enough for Miss 
Gwinn. An uncontrollable storm of passionate anger 
ensued, which was vented upon Emma. She stood 
over her, and forced her to attire herself for travelling, 
protesting that not another hour should she pass in 
the house while Mr. Lewis remained. Then .she started 
with Emma, to place her under the care of an aunt who 
lived so far off as to take a day's journey to reach it. 

" It's a .shame ! " was the comment of sympathetic 
Nancy, who deemed Miss Gwinn the most unreason- 
able woman under the sun. Nancy was herself en- 
gaged to an enterprising porter, to whom she intended 
to be married some fine Easter, when they had saved 
up sufficient to lay in a stock of goods and chattels. 
And she fortlnvith went straight to Mv. Lewis, and 
c<Jinnuinicated to him what had occurretl, giving him 
Miss Emma's new address. 

" He'll follow her, if ho have got any .spirit," wjis 
her inward thought. " It's what my Joe would do 
by me, if I was forced oflT to de.sert places by a old 
dragon." 

It was precisely what Mr. Lewis diil. I'pou the 
return of Miss Gwinn, ho gave notice to (]uit lur 
house, where lie had alrcaily stayed longer than ho 
intended U) do originally. Miss (Jwiiiii had no sus- 



400 A LIFE'S SECRKT. 

piciou l)ut tliat lie returned to liis home — wherever 
that might lie 

Yon may 1)0 inclined to a-ik why Miss Gwinn had 
liilKn into aiiifor so great. That she loved her young 
•sister with an intense and jealous love was certain. 
Miss Gwinn was of a peculiar temperament, and she 
could not bear that one spark of Emma's affection 
should stray from her. Emma, on the contrary, 
scarcely cared for her eldest sister: entertaining for 
her a very cool regard indeed, not to be called a 
sisterly one : and the cause may have lain in the stern 
manners of Miss Gwinn. Deeply, ardently as she 
loved Emma, her manners were to her invariably cold 
and stern: and this does not beget love from tho 
young. Emma also resented the jealous restrictions 
imposed on her, lest she should make any acquaint- 
ance that might lead to marriage. It had been better 
possibly that Miss Gwinn had disclosed to her the 
reasons that existed against it. There was madness 
in the Gwinn family. One of the parents had died in 
an asylum, and the medical men suspected (as Miss 
Gwinn knew) that the children might be subject to 
it. She did not fear it for herself, but she did fear it 
for Emma : in point of fact, the young girl had already, 
some years back, given indications of it. It was there- 
fore Miss Gwinn's intention and earnest wish — a very 
right and jjroper wish — that Ennna should never 
many. There was one other sister, Elizabeth, a year 



THE YEARS GONE BY. jr,] 

older tlian Emma. She had gone on a visit to Jersey 
some little time before; and, to Miss Gwinn's dismay 
and consternation, had married a farmer there, without 
askinfj leave. There was uothinij for Miss Gwinn but 
to bury the disma}' within her, and to resolve that 
Emma should be guarded more closely than before. 
But Emma Gwinn, knowing nothing of the prompting 
motives, naturally resented the surveillance. 

Mr. Lewis followed Emma to her place of retire- 
ment. He had really grown to like her : but the 
pursuit may have had its rise as much in the boyish 
desire to thwart Miss Gwinn — or, as he expressed it, 
*■ to i)ay her oti'" — as in love. However that might 
have been, Emma Gwinn welcomed liim all too gladly, 
and the walks were renewed. 

It was an old tale, that, which ensued. Thanks to 
improved manners and morals, we can say an "old" 
tale, in contradistinction to a modern one. A secret 
marriage in these days would be looked upon askance 
l)y most people. Under the i)urcst, the most dumestic, 
the wisest court in the world, manners and customs 
have taken a tuiii with us, and society calls underhand 
doings by their right name, and turns its back u\un\ 
them. Nevertheless, }>rivate marriages and runawuN' 
marriages were not done away with in the days when 
James Lewis Hunter contracted liis. 

I wonder whether one ever tocjk place — wliere ii 
was contracted in disobedienci' nnd detiancc — that Uul 



402 A LITE'S SECRET 

not bring, in some way or other, its own punishment ? 
To few, perhaps, was it brought home as it Avas to 
Mr. Hunter. No apology can be offered for the step 
he took : not even liis youth, or his want of experience, 
or the attachment wliich had grown up in liis heart 
for Emma. He knew that liis family would have 
objected to the maniage. In fact, he dared not tell 
his purpose. Her position was not equal to his — at 
least, old Mr. Hunter, a proud man, would not have 
deemed it to be so — and he would have objected on 
the score of his son's youth. The worst bar of all 
would have been the tendency to insanity of the 
Gwinns — but of this James Hunter knew nothing. 
So he took that one false, blind, irrevocable stej) of 
contracting a private marriage ; and the consequences 
came bitterly home to him. 

The marriage was a strictly legal one. James 
Hunter was honourable enough to take care of that : 
and both of them guarded the secret jealously. Emma 
remained at her aunt's, and wore her ring inside her 
dress, attached to a neck ribbon. Her husband only 
saw her sometimes; to avoid suspicion, he lived chiefly 
at his father's home in London. Six months after- 
wards, Emma Gwinn — nay, Enmia Planter — lay upon 
lier death-bed. A fever broke out in the neighbour- 
hood, which she caught; and a diflerent illness also 
supervened. Miss Gwinn, apprised of her danger, 
hastened to her. She stood over her in a shock of 



THE YEARS GONE DY. 403 

horror — whence had those symptoms arisen, and Avhat 
meant tliat circle of gold that Emma in her delirium 
kept hold of on her neck ? Medical skill could not 
save her, and just before her death, in a lucid interval, 
she confessed her marriage — the bare fact only — none 
of its details; slie loved her husband too truly to 
expose him to the dire wrath of her sister. And she 
died without giving the slightest clue to his real name 
— Hunter. It was the fever that killed her. 

Dire wrath, indeed ! That was scarcely the word 
for it. Insane wrath would be better. In Miss 
Gwinn's injustice (violent people always arc unjust) 
she persisted in attributing Emma's death to ^Mr. 
liCwis. In her bitter grief, she jumped to the belief 
tliat the secret must have preyed upon Emma's brain 
in the delirium of fever, and that that ])revcnted l^er 
recovery. It is very probable tliat the secret did ])roy 
upon it, tliough, it is to be lioped, not to tlie extent 
assumed by Miss Gwinn. 

Mr. Lewis knew nothinjx of the illness. Ife was in 
France with his father at the time it happened, and 
]\iu\ not seen his wife for three weeks. IVihaps the 
knowledge of liis absence abroad, caused Enmia not to 
attempt to apprise liim when iirst seized; afterwards 
she was too ill to do so. iiut by a strange coincidence 
ho an-ived from London the day after the funeral. 

No ono need envy him the interview with Miss 
Gwinn. On her part it was not a secinly one. (Had 



401 A LIFE'S SECllEl'. 

to get out of tlio liuu.^c and be away IVola lier re- 
proaches, tlic btonny interview was concliuleJ almost 
as soon as it liad begun. He returned straight to 
London, her hist words ringing their refrain on his 
cars — that his wife was dead and he liad killed her : 
Miss Gwinn being still in ignorance that his proper 
name was anything but Lewis. 

Following immediately upon this — it was curious 
that it .should be so — Miss Gwinn received news that 
her sister Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardener, ^vas ill in Jersey. 
She hastened to her: for Elizabeth was nearly, if 
nut quite, as dear to her as Emma had been. Mrs. 
Gardener's was a peculiar and unusual illness, and it 
ended in a confirmed and hopeless affection of the 
brahi. 

Once more Miss Gwinu's injustice came into play. 
Just as .she had persisted in attributing Emma's death 
to ilr. Lewis, so did she now attribute to him Eliza- 
beth's in.sanity : that i.s, she regarded him as its remote 
cau.sc. That the two young sisters had been much 
attached to each other wa.s undoubted : but to think 
that Elizabeth's madness came on through sorrow for 
Emma's death, or at the tidings of what had preceded 
it, was ab.surdly foolish. The poor young lady was 
placed in an asylum in London, of which Dr. Bevary 
was one of the visiting i)hysicians ; he was led to take 
an unusual interest in the case, and this brought him 
acq\iaintcd with Miss Gwinn, Within a year of her 



THE YKARS GONE BY. 405 

being placed there, the husband, Mr. Gardener, dicil 
in Jersey. His aftaii'S turned out to be involved, and 
from that time the cost of keeping her there devolved 
on Miss Gwinn. 

Private asylums are expensive, and Miss Gwinn 
could only maintain her sister in one at the cost of 
giving up her own home. Ill-conditioned though she 
was, we must confess that she had her troubles. She 
gave it up without a murmur : she would have given 
up her life to benefit either of those, her young sisters. 
Retaining but a mere pittance, she devoted all her 
means to the comfort of Elizabeth, and found a homo 
with her brother, in Kcttcrford. There she spent her 
days bemoaning the lost, and cherishing a really insane 
liatred against Mr. Lewis — a desire fur revenge. She 
had never come across him, until that Easter AEondav, 
at Ketterford. And that, you will say, is scarcely 
correct, since it was not himself .she met tlien, but his 
brother. Deceived by the resemblance, she attacked 
Mr. Henry Hunter in the manner you remember; and 
Austin Clay saved him from the gravel-pit. 

But the time .soon came when she stood face to face 
witli Lt'wis Hunter him.self It was the hdur slic h:i<l 
so longed for: the hour of revenge. What revenge '. 
But for tlic wicked lie she suUsoquently forged, there 
could have been no revenge. The worst .she could have 
proclaimed was, tlint James Lewis Hunter, when he was 
a young man, had so far forgotten Ida duty to himself, 



406 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

and to tlie world's decencies, as to contract a secret 
marriage. He might Iiavc got over that. He had 
mourned his young wife sincerely at the time, hut 
later grew to tliink that all things were for the best 
— that it was a serious source of embarrassment i-e- 
moved from his patli. Nothing more or less had ho 
to acknowledge. 

What revenge would Miss Gwi'in have reaped from 
this ? None. Certainly none to satisfy one so vin- 
dictive as she. It never was clear to her.self what 
revenge she had desired : all her eflbrts had been 
directed to discovering him. She found him a man 
of social ties. He had married Louisa Bevary; ho- 
liad a fair daughter ; lie was respected by the world : 
all of which excited the anger of Miss Gwinn. 

Remembering her violent nature, it was only to bo 
expected that Mr. Hunter should shrink Arom meeting 
Mi.ss Gwinn when he lirst knew she ha tracked him 
and was in London. He had never told his wife the 
episode in his early life, and would very much havo 
disliked its tardy disclosure to her through the agency 
of Mi.ss Gwinn. Fifty pounds would he have willingly 
given to avoid a meeting with her. But she came to 
his very home ; so to say, into tho presence of his wifo 
and child; and he had to see her, and make the best 
of it. 

You must remember the interview. ^Ir. Hunter's 
agitation jyrevious to it, was caused by the dread of 



THE YEARS GONE BY. 407 

tlic woman's near presence, of the disturbance slio 
might make in his household, of the discovery his wife 
was in close danger of making — that he was a widower 
when she married him, and not a bachelor. Any 
iiusband of the present day might show the same 
agitation, I think, under similar circumstances. But 
Mr. Hunter did not allow this agitation to sway hiiu 
when before Miss Gwinn ; once shut up with her, 
lie was cool and calm ; rather defied her tlian not, 
civilly ; and asked what she meant by intruding 
upon him, and what she had to complain of: Avhich 
of C(jurse was only adding fuel to the w^oman's flame. 
It was quite true, all he said, and there was nothing 
left to hang a peg of revenge upon. 

And so she invented one. The demon of mischief 
put it into her mind to impose upon him with the lie 
that his first wife, Emma, was not dead, but living 
She told him that she (she, herself) hutl imposed upon 
him with a false .story in that long-past day, in saying; 
that Emma was dead and buried. It was another 
sister who had died, she added — not Emma: Eninia 
had been ill with the fever, but was recovering; and 
she had said this to separate her from him. Enmia. 
she continued, was alive still, a patient in the lunatic 
asylum. 

It never occurred to Mr. Hunter to doulit ilie talc. 
Her passionate manner, her impressive words, only 
added to her earnestness, and he came out from tlio 



408 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

interview Ijclievinfr that his first wife had not died, 
llis state of mind cannot be forgotten. Austin 
Clay saw liiin pacing the waste ground in the dark 
night. His agony and remorse were fearful ; the sun 
of his life's peace had set : and there could be no 
retaliation upon her who had caused it all — Miss 
Gwinn. 

Miss Gwinn, however, did not follow up her 
revenge. Not because further steps might have 
brought the truth to light, but because after a night's 
rest she rather repented of it. Her real nature was 
honourable, and she despised herself for what she had 
done. Once it crossed her to undo it ; but she hated 
Mr. Hunter with an undying hatred, and so let it 
alone and went down to Ketterford. One evening, 
when she had been at home some days, a spirit of 
confidence came over her which was very unusual, and 
she told her brother of the revenge she had taken. 
That was quite enough for Lawyer Gwinn : a 
glorious opportunity for enriching himself, not to bo 
missed. He went up to London, and terrified Mr. 
Hunter out of five thousand pounds. " Or I go and 
tell your wife, Miss Bevary, that she is not your wife," 
he threatened, in his coaree way. 

Miss Gwinn suspected that the wurthy lawyer 
had gone to make the most of the opportunity, and 
she wrote him a sharp letter, telling him that if he 
did so — if he interfered at aU — she would at once 



THE YEARS GONE BY. J09 

confess to Lewis Hunter that Emma waM really »k'a<l. 
Not knowing where lie would put up in London, 
she enclosed this note to Austin Clay, a-skini^ him 
to give it to Lawyer Gwinn. 

She took the opportunity, at the same time, of 
writing a reproachful letter to Mr. Hunter, in which 
his past ill-doings and Emma's present existence were 
fully enlarged upon. As the reader may remember, 
she misdirected the letters : Austin became acquainted 
with the (as he could only suppose) dangerous secret ; 
and the note to Lawyer Gwinn was set alight, sealed. 
If Austin or his master had only borrowed a momen- 
tary portion of the principles of Gwinn, of Ketterford, 
and peeped into the letter ! What years of misery it 
would have saved Mr. Hunter ! But when Miss 
Gwinn discovered that her brother had used the lie 
to obtain money, she did not declare the truth. The 
sense of justice within her yielded to revenge. She 
hated Mr. Hunter as she had ever done, and would 
not relieve him. A fine life, between them, did they 
lead Mr. Hunter. Miss Gwinn protested against 
every fresh aggression made by the lawyt-r ; but 
protested only. In Mr. Hunter's anguish of mind at 
the di.sgrace cast on his wife an<l child; in his ttrror 
lest the truth (as he assumed it to be) shouUl reach 
them — and it .seemed to be ever looming upon hiiu — 
he ha<l lived, as may be said, a perpetual death. And 
the disgrace was of a nature that never could bo 



410 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

removed ; ami the terror had never left liim through 
Jill these long years. 

Dr. Jievary had believed the worst. When ho 
first became acquainted -svith Miss Gwinn, she (never 
a communicative woman) had not disclosed the 
previous history of the patient in the asylum. Sho 
had given hints of a sad tale, she oven said sho was 
living in hope of being revenged on one who had done 
herself and family an injury, but she said no more. 
Later circumstances connected with ^Ir. Hunter and 
his brother, dating from the account he heard of Miss 
Gwinn's attack upon Mj-. Henry, had impressed Dr. 
Bevary with the belief that James Hunter had really 
married the poor woman in the asylum. When ho 
questioned Miss Gwinn, that estimable woman had 
replied in obscure hints : and they had so frightened 
Dr. Bevary that he dared ask no further. For his 
sister's sake he tacitly ignored the subject in future, 
living in daily thankfulness that Mrs. Hunter was 
without suspicion. 

But with tho dead body of Elizabeth Gardener 
lying before her, the enacted lie came to an end. 
Miss Gwinn freely acknowledged what she had done, 
and took little, if any, blame to her.self "Lewis 
Hunter spoilt tho happiness of my life," sho said ; 
" in return I have spoilt his." 

" And suppose my sister, his lawful wife, had been 
led to believe this fine tale ? " questioned Dr. Bevary, 
looking keenly at her. 



THE YEARS GONE DY. 411 

" in that case I slioukl have declarod the truth," 

said Miss Gwinn. " I liad no animosity towards lior. 

Slic was innocent, she was also your sister, and she 

sliould never have sufi'ereih" 

" llow could you know that she remained ignorant ? " 
" By my brother being able, ■whenever he would, to 

frighten Mr. Hunter," was the laconic answer. 



412 A LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER XI. 

EELIEF. 

We left Mr. Huntor in the casy-eliair of his dining- 
room, buried in these reminiscences of the unhappy- 
past, and quite unconscious that relief of any sort 
could bo in store for him. And j'ot it was very near: 
relief from two evils, quite opposite in their source. 
How long he sat there he scarcely knew; it seemed 
for hours. In the afternoon he aroused him.self to bin 
financial difficulties, and went out. He remembered 
that he had purposed calling that day upon bis 
bankers, though be bad no hope — but rather the cer- 
tainty of the contrar}' — that they would help him out 
of his financial emljarrassmcnts. There was just time 
to get there before the bank closed, and A[r. Huntor 
liad a cab called and wont down to Liimbard Street. 
Ho was .shown into the room of the principal partner, 
Tlie banker thought bow ill ho looked. Mr. Hunter's 
first question was about the heavy bill that was due 
that day. He supposed it had been presented and 
dishonoured, 



llELtEF. 413 

" Ko," said the banker. " It was presented and 
paid." 

A ray of hope liglitcd up the sadness of Mr. Hunter's 
face, " Did you indeed pay it ? It was very kind. 
You shall be no losers eventually." 

*' We did not pay it from our own fiuid.s, Mr. 
Hunter. It was paid from yours." 

Mr. Hunter did not understand. "I thought my 
account had been almost drawn out," he said; "anil 
by the note I received this morning from you, I 
understood you would decline to help me." 

" Your account was drawn very close indeed ; but 
this afternoon, in time to meet the bill upon its second 
presentation, there was a large sum paid in to your 
credit — two thousand six hundred pounds." 

A pause of blank astonishment on the part of Air. 
Hunter. " Who paid it in ? " he presently a.sked. 

" Mr. Clay. He came himself You \v\\\ weather 
the .storm now, Mr. Hunter." 

There was no answering reply. The banker bunt 
forward in the du.sk of the growing evening, and saw 
that Mr. Hunter was incapable of making one. He 
was sinkiuff back in his chair in a fainting-lit. 
Whether it was the revulsion of feeling caused by the 
conviction that he should now weather the storm, or 
simply the efi'ect of his jjliysical stati', Mr. Hunter had 
fainted, as quietly as any girl might do. One of tlie 
partners lived at the bank, and Mr. Hunter was con- 



4U A LIFE'S SECRET. 

vcyed into the dwelling-house. It was quite evening 
Lcfore he was well enough to leave it. lie drove to 
the yard. It was just closed for the night, and Mr. 
Clay was gone. Mr. Hunter ordered the cab lioine. 
He found Austin waiting for him, and he also found 
Dr. Bevary, Seeing the latter, he expected next to 
see Miss Gwinn, and glanced nervously round. 

"She is gone back to Ketterford," spoke out Dr. 
Bevary, divining the fear. " Tlie woman will never 
trouble you again. I thought you must be lost, 
Hunter. I have been here twice; been home to 
dinner with Florence; been round at the yard worry- 
ing Clay ; and could not come upon you anywhere." 

" I went to the bank, and was taken ill there," saiil 
Mr. Hunter, who still seemed anything but himself, 
and looked round in a bewildered manner. "The 
woman, Bevary — are you sure she's gone quite away ? 
She — she wanted to beg, I think," he added, as if in 
apology for pressing the question. 

" She is gone : gone never to return ; and you may 
be at rest," repeated the doctor, impressively. " And 
so you liave been ill at the bankers', James ! Things 
are going wrong, I suppose." 

"No; they are going right. Austin" — laying his 
liand upon the 3'oung man's shoulder — " what am I to 
say ? This money can only have come from you." 

" Sir ! " said Austin, half lau<diinfr. 

Mr. Huntor drew Dr. IVvary's attention, pointing 



llELIl^P. 415 

to Austin. " Look at him, Bevaiy. He has saved 
me. But for him, I should have borne a dishonoured 
name this day. I went down to Lombard Street, a 
man witliout liopc, bcheving that the blow had been 
ali-ead}'- struck in bills dishonoured — that my name 
was on its way to the Gazette. I found that he, 
Austin Cla}', had paid in between two and three 
tliousand pounds to my credit." 

" I could not put my money to a better use, sir. 
Tlic two thousand pounds were left to me, you know : 
the rest I saved. I was wishing for something to 
turn up that I could invest it in." 

"Invest!' exclaimed Mr. Hunter, deep feeling in 
las tone. " How do you know you will not lose it ? " 

" I have no fear, sir. The strike is at an end, and 
business will go on well now." 

" If I did not believe that it would, I would never 
consent to use it," said Mr. Hunter. 

It was true. Austin Clay, a provident man, had 
]jecn advancing his money to save the credit of his 
master. Suspecting some such crisis as this was loom- 
ing not very fur off, he ha<l contrived to li(»M liis 
funds in readiness for immediate use. It had come, 
tliough, sooner than he anticipated. 

"How am I to repay you?" asked -Mr. ilunlrr. 
"I don't mean the money: but the obligation. " 

A red Ihish mounted to Austin's brow. He answered 
hastily, as if to cover it. 



416 A IJFB'S SECRET. 

" I do nut require payment, sir. I do nut luuk ful' 
any." 

Mr. Hunter .stood in deep tliought, looking at liim, 
but vacantly. Dr. Bevary was near the mantelpiece, 
apparently paying no attention to citlier of them. 
" Will yuu link your name to mine ? " said Mr. Hunter, 
moving towards Austin. 

" In what manner, sir ? " 

"By letting the firm be from henceforth Hunter 
and Clay. I have long wished this ; you are of too 
great use to me to remain anything less than a 
partner, and by this last act of yours, yuu have 
earned the right to be so. Will you object to join 
your name to one which was so nearly being dis- 
honoured ? " 

He held out his hand a.s he spoke, and Austin 
clasped it. "Oh, Mr. Hunter !" he exclaimed, in tlie 
strong impulse of the moment, "I wi.sh you would 
give me hopes of a dearer reward." 

" You mean Florence," said Mr. Hunter. 

"Yes," returned Austin, in agitation. "I care not 
huw long I wait, or what price yuu may call upon me 
to pay for her. As Jacob served Laban seven years 
fur Racliel, so would I serve for Florence, and think it 
but a day, for the love I bear her. Sir, Mis. Hunter 
would have given her to me." 

" My objection is nut to yourself, Austin. Were I 
to di.sclosc to you certain particulars connected with 



RELIEF. 417 

Florence — as I should be obliged to do before she 
married — you might yourself decline her." 

" Try me, sir," said Austin, a Ijright smile parting 
his lips. 

"Ay, try him," said Dr. Bevary, in his quaint 
manner, " I have an idea that he may know as mucli 
of the matter as you do, Hunter. You neither of you 
know too much," he significantly added. 

Austin's cheek turned red ; and there was tliat in 
his tone, his look, which told Mr. Hunter that he had 
known the fact, known it for years. "Oh, sir," he 
pleaded, "give me Florence." 

"I tell you that you neither of you know too 
much," said Dr. Bevary. " But, look here, Austin. 
The best thing you can do is, to go to my house and 
ask Florence whether she will have you. Tlien — if 
you don't find it too much trouble — escort her home." 
Austin laughed as he caught up hi.s hat. A certain 
prevision, that he should win Florence, had ever been 
within him. 

Dr. Bevary watelied the room-door close, and then 
drew a chair in front of his brother-iu-law. "Did it 
ever strike you that Austin Clay knew your secret, 
James ? " he began. 

"How should itr' retumc'l Mr. Huiiler, feeling 
himself compelled to answer. 

" I do not know how," said the doctor, " any more 
tlinn I know huw the impression, that he did so, fi.xcd 

A Life's SciTit. '21 



418 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

itself iip(jn me. I liavc felt sure, this many a year 
past, that he -was no stranger to the fact, though lie 
probahly knew nothing of the details." 

To the fact ! Dr. Bevary spoke with strange cool- 
ness. 

" When did you become acquainted with it ? " asked 
!Mr. Hunter, in a tone of sharp pain. 

"I became acquainted with your share in it at the 
time Miss Gwinn discovered that Mr. Lewis was Mr. 
Hunter. At least, as much of the share as I ever was 
acquainted with until to-day." 

Mr. Hunter compressed his lips. It was no use 
beating about the bu.sh any longer. 

"James," resumed the doctoi*, "why did you not 
confide the secret to me ? It would have been much 
better." 

" To you ! Louisa's brother 1 " 

" It would have been better, I say. It might not 
have lifted the sword that was always hanging over 
Louisa's head, or have ca.sed it by one jot; but it 
might have cased yoii. A sorrow kept within a 
man's own bosom, doing its work in silence, will burn 
his lift' away : get him to talk of it, and half the pain 
is removed. It is also possible that I might have 
made better terms than you with the rapacity of 
Gwinn." 

" If you know it, why did you not speak openly to 
me ? " 



RELIEF. 419 

Dr. Bevary suppressed a sliudder. " It was one of 
those terrible secrets that a third party cannot inter- 
fere la uninvited. No : silence was my only course, 
.so long as you observed silence to me. Had I inter- 
fered, I might have said, ' Louisa shall leave you ! ' " 

"It is over, so far as she is concerned," said Mr. 
Hunter, wiping his damp brow. "Let her name rest. 
It is the thought of her that has well-nigh killed me." 

" Ay, it's over," responded Dr. Bevary ; " over, in 
more senses than one. Do you not wonder that Miss 
Gvvinn should have gone back to Ketterford without 
molesting you again ? " 

" How can I wonder at anything she does ? She 
comes and she goes, with as little reason as warning." 

Dr. Bevary lowered his voice. " Have you ever 
been to see that poor patient in Kerr's asylum ?" 

The question excited the anger of Mr. Hunter. 
" What do you mean by asking it :* ' he cried. " AVhon 
I was led to believe her dead, 1 shaped my future 
course accordini; to that belief I have never acted, 
nor would I act, upon any other — save in the giving 
money to Gwinn, fur my wife's sake. If Louisa was 
not my wife legally, she was nothing less in tlie sight 
of Clod. ' 

"Louisa Wiis your wit'e, said Dr. Bevary, (piii'tly. 
And Mr. Hunter responded by a sharp gesture of 
pain, lie wi."ihed the subject at an en<l. The dctctor 
continued. 



4-'0 A LIFE'S SECRKT 

" James, liad you gone, though it liad been but for 
an instant, to sec that unliappy patient of Kerr's, 
your trammels would have been broken. It was not 
Emma, your young wife of j-ears ago." 

"It was not 1 What do you .say ? " ga.sped Mr. 

Hunter, 

" When Agatha Gwinn found you out, here, in this 
house, she startled you nearly to death by telling you 
that Emma was living — Avas a patient in Kerr's 
asylum. Slic told you that, when you had been 
informed in tho.se past days of Emma's death, you 
Avere imposed upon by a lie — a lie invented by herself. 
James, the lie was uttered then, when she spoke to 
you here. Emma, your wife, did die ; and the young 
woman in the a.sylum was her sister." 

Mr. Hunter rose. His hands were raised im- 
ploringly, his face was stretched forward in its sad 
yearning. What! — which Mas true .■' which wiis he to 
believe ? 

" In the gratification of her revenge, Miss Owinn 
concocted the talc that Emma was alive," resumed 
Dr. Be vary ; " knowing, as she spoke it, that Emma 
had been dead years and years. She contrived to 
foster the same impression upon me ; and the same 
impression, I cannot tell how, has, I am sure, clung to 
Austin Clay. Louisa was your lawful wife, James." 

Mr, Hunter, in the plenitude of his thankfulness, 
sank upon his chair, a burst of emotion breaking from 



RELIEF. 421 

liim, and the drops of perspiration gathering again on 
liis brow. 

"That other one, tlic sister, the poor patient, is 
dead," pursued the doctor. "As we stood together 
over her, an hour ago, Miss Gwinn confessed the 
imposition. It appeared to slip from her involuntaril}^ 
in spite of hei'self. I inquired her motive, and slie 
answered, 'To be revenged on you, Lewis Hunter, for 
the wrong you had done.' As you had marred the 
comfort of her life, so she in return had marred that 
of yours. As she stood in her impotence, looking on 
the dead, I asked her which, in her opinion, had 
inflicted the most wrong, she or you ? " 

Mr. Hunter lifted his eager face. " It was a foolish 
deceit. What did she hope to gain b}' it ? A word 
at any time might have exposed it." 

" It .seems she did gain pretty well by it," sig- 
nificantly replied Dr. Bevar}'. " There's little doubt 
that it was first spoken in the angry rage of the 
moment, as being the most eflectual mode of torment- 
ing you : and the terrible dread with which you 
received it — as I conclude you .so did receive it— must 
have encouraged her to persist in the lie. Jamo.s, 
you shuuld have confi<lr.l in hk' ; I might haw 
broutrht li<fht to bear on it in .some way <>r otln-i-. 
Your timorous silence has kept me quiet." 

" God be thanked that it is over ! " fervently 
ejaculated Mr. Hunt* r. " The loss of my money, the 



4-22 A LIFE'S SFXRKT. 

loss of my peace, they seem to be little in comparison 
^yith the joy of this welcome revelation." 

He sat down as he spoke and bent his head upon 
his hand. Presently ho looked at his brother-in-law. 
" And you think that Clay has suspected this ? And 
that — suspecting it, ho has wishotl for Florence ? " 

"I am sure of one thing — that Florence has been 
his object, his dearest hope. What he says has no 
exaggeration in it — that he would serve for her seven 
years, and seven to that, for the love he bears her." 

" I have been afraid to glance at such a thing as 
maniajre for Florence, and that is the rea.son I would 
not listen to Austin Clay. With this slur hanging 
over her " 

" There is no slur — as it turns out," interrupted Dr. 
Bevary. " Florence loves him, James; and your wife 
knew it." 

" What a relief is all this ! " murmured Mr. Hunter. 
" The woman gone back to Ketterford ! I think I 
shall sleep to-night." 

" She is gone back, never more to trouble you. Wo 
must see how her worthy brother can be brought to 
account for obtaining money under false pretences." 

*' I'll make him render back every shilling he has 
defrauded me of: I'll bring him to answer for it before 
the laws of his country," was the wronged man's 
passionate and somewhat confused answer. 

But that is more easy to say than to do, Mr. Hunter I 



RELIEF. 423 

For, a few days subsequent to this, Lawyer Gwinn, 
possibly scenting that unpleasant consequences might 
be in store for him, was quietly steaming to America 
in a fine ship ; taking all his available substance witli 
him, and leaving Ketterford and his sister behind 
him. 



4l'4 a LIFE'S SECRET. 



CHAPTER XII. 

CONCLUSION. 

With outward patieuco and inward wonder, Flurunco 
Hunter was remaining at Di-. Bcvary's. That some- 
thing must be wrong at home, she felt sure : el^se why- 
was she kept away from it so long ? And where was 
her uncle ? Invalids were shut up in the waiting- 
room, like Patience on a monument, hoping minute by 
minute to .see him appear. And now here was another, 
she supposed ! No. He had passed the patients' room 
and was opening the door of this. Austin Clay ! 

" What have you come for ? " she exclaimed, in the 
glad confusion of the moment. 

"To take you home, for one thing," he answered, 
as he approached her. " Do you dislike the escort, 
Florence ? " 

He bent forward as he asked the question. A 
strange light of happiness .shone in her eyes ; a .sweet 
.smile parted his lips. Florence Hunter's heart stood 
still, and then began to beat as if it would have burst 
its bounds. 



CONCLUSION. • 425 

" What has happened ? " she faltered. 

" This," he said, taking both her liands and drawing 
her gently before him. " The right to hold 3'our hands 
in mine; the right — soon — to take you tu my lieurt 
and keep you there for ever. Your father and uncle 
have sent me to tell you this." 

The words, in their fervent earnestness carried 
instant truth to her heart, lighting it as with tho 
brightness of sunshine. " Oh, what a recompense ! " 
slie impulsively murmured from the depths of her 
great love. "And everything lately has seemed so 
dark with doubt, so full of trouble !" 

" No more doubt, no more trouble," he fondly whis- 
])ered. "It shall be my life's care to guard my wilt' 
from all such, Florence — Heaven permitting me." 

Anything more that was said may as well be left 
to the reader's lively imagination. They arrived at 
home after awhile; and found Dr. Bevary there, 
talking still. 

" How you must have hurried yourselves ! " (pioth 
he, turning to them. " Clay, you ought to l)e ill from 
walking fast. What has kept him, Florence ? " 

" Not your patients, doctor," retorted Austin, laugh- 
ing ; "though you are keeping them. One of thrm 
.saj's you made an a[)pointment with him. I'y tho 
way he spoke, I think he was inwardl}' vowing 
vengeance against you for not keeping it. " 

"Ah," said tlio doctor, "wo medical nun do get 



420 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

detained sometimes. One patient has had the most 
oi' my time this day, poor lady ! " 

" I.< she better ? " quickly asked Florence, who 
always had ready sympathy for sickness and suffering ; 
perhaps from having seen so much of it in her mother. 

" No, my dear, she is dead," was the answer, gravely 
spoken. " And, therefore," added the doctor in a 
different tone, " I have no further excuse for ab-senting 
myself from those other patients who are alivo and 
grumbling at mo. Will you walk a few steps with 
mo, Mr. Clay ? " 

Dr. Bevary linked his arm within Austin's as they 
crossed the hall, and they went out together. " How 
did you become acquainted with that dark secret?" 
he breathed. 

" Through a misdirected letter of Miss Gwinn's," 
replied Austin. " After I had read it, I discovered 
that it must have been meant for Mr. Hunter, thoujrh 
addressed to me. It told me all. Dr. Bevary, I have 
had to cainy the secret all these years, bearing myself 
as one innocent of the knowledge ; before Mrs. Hunter, 
before Florence, before him. I would have sriven half 
my savings not to have known it." 

" You believed that — that — one was living who 
might have replaced Mrs. Hunter ? " 

" Yes ; and that she was in confinement. The letter, 
a 1 cproachful one, was too explanatory." 

" She died this morning. It is with her — at Ica-st 



CONCLUSION. 427 

with her and her affairs — that my day has been taken 
up." 

" What a mercy !" ejaculated Austin. 

"Ay; mercies are showered down every day : a great 
many more than we, self-complaisant mortals, acknow- 
k'dge or return thanks for," responded Dr. Bevavy, in 
the quaint tone he was fond of using. And tlien, in 
a few brief Avords, ho enlightened Austin as to the 
actual truth 

" What a fiend she must be 1 " cried Austin, alluding 
to Miss Gwinn, of Ketterford. " Oh, but this is a 
mercy indeed! Ami I have been planning how to 
guard the secret always from Florence." 

Dr. Bevary made no rej)ly. Austin turned to him, 
the ingenuous look ujjon his face that it often wore, 

" You approve of me for Florence ? Do you not, 
sir? 

"Be you very sure, young gentleman, that you 
should never have got her, had I not ai)proved," 
oi'acularly nodded Dr. Bevary. " I look upon Florence 
as part of my belongings; and, if you mind what y»>u 
are about, perhaps I may look upon you as the same." 

Austin laughed. " How am I to avoid oflence ?" ho 
a.sked. 

"By loving your wile w iih an e.irne>t, Insling i'lvc ; 
by making her abetter husband than Janu-^ Trunftr 
has been enabled to make her poor mother." 

The tears rose to Austin's eyes with the intensity 



423 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

of his emotion. "Do you think there is cause to ash 
lue to do this, Dr. Bevary ? " 

"N"o, my boy, I do not. God bless you both! 
There! leave nie to get home to those patients of 
mine. You can be off back to her." 

But Austin Clay had work on his hands, as well a.<? 
plea,sure, and he turned towards Daffodil's Delight. 
It was the evening for taking Baxendale his week's 
money, and Austin was not one to neglect it. He 
picked his way down amidst the poor people, standing 
about hungry and half-naked. All the works were 
open again, but numbers and numbers of men could 
not obtain employment, however good their will might 
be : the masters had taken on strangers, and there was 
no room for the old workmen. John Baxendale was 
sitting by his bedside dressed. His injuries were 
yielding to skill and time : and in a short while he 
lioped to be at work again. 

" Well, Baxendale ? " cried Austin, in his cheery 
voice. " Still getting better ? " 

•' Oh yes, sir, I'm thankful to say it. The surgeon 
was here to-day, and told me there would be no 
further relapse. I am a bit tired this evening; I stood 
a good while at the window, watching the row 
opposite. She was giving him such a basting." 

" What ! do you mean the Cheeks ? I thought the 
street seemed in a commotion." 

Baxendale laughed. " It is but just over, sir. She 



CONCLUSION. 4:20 

sot on and shook him soundly, and then she scratched 
him, and then she cuffed him — all outside the door. I 
do wonder that Cheek took it from her; but he's just 
like a puppy in her hands, and nothing better. Two 
good hours they were disputing there." 

" What was the warfare about ? " inquired Austin. 

"About his not getting work, sir. Cheek's wife 
was just like many of the other wives in Daffodil's 
Delight — urrqnfj their husbands not to g[0 to work, 
and vowing ilieyd strike if they didn't stand out. I 
don't know but Mother Cheek was about the most 
obstinate of all. The very day that I was struck 
down I heard her blowing him uj) for not 'standing 
firm upon his rights;' and telling him she'd rather go 
to his hanfjinij than see him go back to work. And 
now .she beats him because he can't get any to do." 

" Is Cheek one that cannot get any ? " 

" Cheek's one, sir. Mr. Henry took on more 
.strangers than did you and Mr. Hunter ; so, of course, 
there's less room for his old men. Cheek has walked 
about London these two days, till he's footsore, trying 
different shops, but he can't get taken on: there arc 
too many men out, for liiiu to have a chance." 

•'I think some of the wives in Daffodil's Deli<rht arc 
the most unreasonable women tliat ever were croatdl," 
ejaculated Austin. 

" SliC is — that wife of Cheek ',V' rcioiiud naxriulul' 
"I don't know how Hk'v'II ontl it. Slio lia> shut (he 



430 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

door in his face, vowing he shall not put a foot inside 
it until he can bring some wages with hira. Forbid- 
ding him to take work when it was to be had, and 
now that it can't be had turning upon him for not 
gotting it: If Cheek wasn't a donkey, he'd turn 
upon her again. There's other women just as contra- 
dictory. I think the bad living has soured their 
tempers." 

" Where's Mary tliis evening ? " inquired Austin, 
quitting the unsatisfactory topic. Since lier father's 
illness, Mary's place had been by his side : it was 
somethinjj unusual to find her absent. Baxendale 
lowered his voice to rei)ly. 

" She is getting ill again, sir. All her old symptoms 
liave come back, and I am sure now that she is going 
fast. She is on her bed, lying down." 

As he spoke the last word, he stopped, for Mary 
entered. She seemed scarcely able to walk ; a hectic 
ihish shone on her cheeks, and her breath was painfully 
short. " Mary," Austin said, with much concern, " I 
am sorry to see you thu.s." 

" It is only the old illness come back again, sir," she 
answered, as she sank back in the pillowed chair. " I 
knew it had not gone for good — that the improvement 
was only temporary. But now, sir, look how good 
and merciful is the Hand that guides us — and yet we 
sometimes doubt it ! What should I have been spared 
for, mul 111 1 this returning glimpse of strength, but 



CONCLUSION. <131 

tliat I might nurse my father in his ilhicss, and be a 
comfort to him ? He is nearly well — will soon be at 
work again, and wants me no more. Thanks ever bo 
to God : " 

Austin went out, marvelling at the girls simple and 
lieautiful trust. It appeared that she w^ould be ha])py 
in her removal whenever it should come. As he was 
passing up the street he met Dr. Bevary. Austin 
wondered what had become of his patients. 

"All had gone away but two; tired of waiting," 
said the doctor, divining his thoughts. "I am <rom<r 
to take a look at Mary Baxendale. I hear she is 
woi"se." 

"Very much worse," replied Austin. "I have just 
left her father." 

At that moment there was a sound of contention 
and scolding, a woman's sharp tongue being ui)i)er- 
most. It proceeded from Mrs. C'heek, who was renew- 
inir the contest with her hu.sband. Austin <rave ])i*. 
Bevary an outline of what Ba.xendale had .said. 

"And if, after a .short season of ])ros])erity, anotlier 
strike should come, these women would Ix' tlie first 
again to urge the men on to it — to ' stand up i'or tin ir 
rights ' ! " exclaimed the doctor. 

" Not all of them." 

" They have not all done it now. Mark you, Au^tin ! 
I .shall .settle a certain sum upon Florence wlun slu^ 
marries, just to keep you in 1 rr;id-aud-ehrese, .'^lunild 



4.V2 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

these strikes become the order of the day, and yoU 
get engulfed in them." 

Austin smiled. " I think I can take better care 
than tliat, doctor." 

•' Take all the care you please. But you are talking 
self-.sufficient nonsense, my young friend. I shall put 
Florence on the safe side, in spite of your care. I 
liave no fancy to see her reduced to one inaid and n 
cotton rjown. You can tell her so," added the doctoi", 
as he continued on his wa}'. 

Austin turned on his, when a man stole up to him 
from some side entry — a cadaverous-looking man, 
pinched and careworn. It was James Dunn ; he had 
been discharged out of prison by the charity of some 
fund at the disposal of the governor. He humbly 
begged for work — "just to keep him from starving." 

" You ask what I have not to give, Dunn," was the 
reply of Austin. " Our yard is full : and, consider the 
season ! Perhaps when spring comes on " 

" How am I to exist till spring, sir ? " he burst forth 
in a voice tliat was but just kept from tears. "And 
tlic wife and tlic children ?" 

" I wish I could help you, Dunn. Your case is only 
that of many otheiu" 

" There have been so many strangers took on, sir ! " 

" Of course there have been. To do the work tliat 
you and others refused." 

" I have not a place to lay my head in this night, 



CONCLUSION. 433 

sir. I have not so much as a slice of bread. I'd d<j 
the meanest work that could be offered to me." 

Austin felt in his pocket for a piece of money, and 
gave it him. " What miser}' thoy have brought upon 
themselves • " ho thought. 

When the announcement reached Mrs. Henry Hunter 
of Florence's engagement, she did not approve of it. 
Not that she had any objection to Austin Clay; ho 
had from the first been a favourite with her, thougli 
she had sometimes marked her preference by a some- 
what patronizing manner ; but for Florence to marry 
her father's clerk, though that clerk had now become 
partner, was more than she could at the first moment 
<|uietly yield to. 

"It is quite a descent for her," she said to her 
husband privately. " What can James be thinking 
of? The very idea of her marrying Austin Clay ! " 

" But if she likes him ? " 

" That ought not to go for anything. Suppose it 
had been Mary ? I would not have let her have him." 

" I would," decisively returned Mr. Henry Hunter. 
*' Clay's wo»th his weight in gold." 

Some short time given to preliminaries, and to the 
re-cstabli.shmcnt (in a dogree) of Mr. Hunter's shattered 
health, and the now lirm "Hunter and Clay" was 
duly announced to the business world. T^pun an 
appointed day, Mr. Hunter stood before his workmen, 
his arm within Austin's. Ho was introducin:j him to 

A Life's Secret. 28 



434 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

tlieiii in his new capacity of partner. The strike wa.s 
(|uite at an end, and the men — as many as room could 
bo made for — had returned ; but Mr. Hunter would 
not consent to di-scharffe the hands tliat had come 
forward to ttiko work during the emergency. 

"What has the strike brought you ? " inquired Mr. 
Hunter, seizing upon the occasion to offer a word of 
advice. " Any good ? " 

Strictly speaking, the men could not reply that it 
had. In the silence that ensued after the question, 
one man's voice was at length raised. 

" We look back upon it as a subject of congratula- 
tion, sir." 

" Congi'atulation ! " exclaimed Mr. Hunter. " Upon 
what point ? " 

"That we have ha<l the pluck to hold out .so long 
in the teeth of difficulties," replied the voice. 

"Pluck is a good quality, when rightly applied," 
observed Mr, Hunter. " But what good has the 
' pluck,' or the strike, brought to you in this case ? — 
for that was the ([uestion we were upon." 

"It was a lock-out, sir ; not a stiike." 

" In the first instance it was a strike," .said Mr. 
Hunter. " Pollocks' men struck, and you had it in 
contemplation to follow their example. Oh yes, you 
had, my men ; you know as well as I do, that the 
measure was under discussion. Upon that state of 
affairs becoming known, the masters determined upon 



CONCLUSION. l.-jf) 

a general lock-out. They tlid it in sell-dercuce ; and 
if you Avill put yourselves in thought into their jilaces, 
judging fairly, you will not wonder that it was con- 
sidered the only course oi)en to them. The lock-out 
lasted but a short period, and then the yards were 
again opened — open to all who Avould resume work 
upon the old terms, and sign a declaration not to 1m^ 
under the dominion of the Trades' Unions. How 
very few availed themselves of this you do not need 
to be reminded." 

" We acted for what we thought the best," said 
another. 

"1 know you did," replied Mr. Hunter. " You are 
— speaking of you collectively — steady, hard-working, 
well-meaning men, who wish to do the best for your- 
selves, your wives and families. But, looking back 
now, do you consider that it was for the best ? You 
haA'c returned to work upon the same terms that you 
were offered then. Here we are, in the depth of 
winter, and what sort of liomes do you possess to 
ibrtify yourselves again.st its severities ! " 

What sort indeed 1 Mr. Hunter's delicacy shrank 
from depicting them. 

" I am not speaking to you now as your master," lie 
continued, conscious that men do not like this stylo of 
conver.se from their employers. " Consi<ler me for tin' 
moment as your friend only; h't us talk togetht-r as 
man and man, I wish 1 Cuuld bring you to see the 



486 A LIFE'S SECRET. 

evil of tliese convulsions; I do not wish it from 
motives of self-interest, but for your sole good. You 
may be thinking, ' Ali, the master is afraid of another 
contest; tliis one has dune him so much damage, and 
that'y why he is going on at us against them.' You 
are mistaken ; that is not why I speak. My men, 
were any further contests to take place between us, in 
which you held yourselves aloof from work, as you 
have done in this, wc should at once place ourselves 
beyond dependence upon you, by bringing over foreign 
workmen. In the consultations which have been 
held between myself and Mr. Clay, relative to the 
terms of our jiartnership, this point has been fully dis- 
cussed, and our determination taken. Should we have 
a repetition of the past, Hunter and Clay would then 
import their own workmen." 

" And other firms as well ? " inteiTupted a voice. 

" We know nothing of what other firms might do : 
to attend to our own interests is enough for us. I 
hope we shall never have to do this ; but it is only 
fair to inform you that such would be our course of 
action. If you, our native workmen, brothers of the 
soil, abandon your work from any crotchets " 

" Crotchets, sir ! " 

" Ay, crotchets — according to my opinion," repeated 
Mr. Hunter. " Could you show me a real gi'ievance, 
it might be a difiercnt matter. But let us leave 
motives alone, and go to effects. When I say that I 



CONCLUSION. 437 

wish you could see the evil of these convulsions, I 
speak solely with reference to your good, to the well- 
being of your families. It cannot have escaped 3'our 
notice that my health has become greatly shattered — 
that, in all probability, my life will not be much 
prolonged. My friends" — his voice sank to a deep, 
solemn tone — "believing, as I do, that I shall soon 
stand before my Maker, to give an account of my 
doings here, could I, from any paltry motive of self- 
interest, deceive you ? Could I say one thing and 
mean another ? No ; when I seek to warn you against 
future troubles, I do it for your own sakes. Whatever 
may be the urging motive of a strike, whether good 
or bad, it can only bring ill in the working. I would 
say, were I not a master, ' Put up with a grievance, 
rather than enter upon a strike ; ' but being a master, 
you might misconstrue the advice. I am not going 
into the merits of the measures — to say this past 
strike was right, or that was wrong ; I speak only of 
the terrible amount of suffering they wrought. A 
man said to me the other day — he was from thf 
factory districts — ' T have a horror of strikes, they 
liuvc worked so much evil in our tra<lc.' You can get 
books which tell of them, and read for yourselves. 
How many ori)hans, and widows, and moii in pri.sons 
.ire there, who have cause to rue this .strike that has 
only now just passed away ' It has broken u|i homen 
that, before it came, wore homes of plentv and eontmt. 

28— X 



438 A LIFK'S SECRET. 

leaving in them despair and death. Let us try to go 
on better for the future. I, for my part, will always 
be ready to receive and consider any reasonable pro- 
posal from my men ; my partner will do the same. If 
there is no attempt at intimidation, and no interference 
on the part of others, there ought to be little difficulty 
in discussing and settling matters, with the help of 
' the golden rule.' Only — it is my last and eaniest 
word of caution to you — abide by your own good 
sense, and do not yield it to those agitators who 
would lead you away." 

Every syllable spoken by Mr. Hunter, as to the 
social state of the people, Daftbdil's Delight, and all 
other parts of London where the strike had prevailed, 
could echo. Whether the men had invoked the con- 
test needlessly, or whether they were justified, accord- 
ing to the laws of right and reason, it matters not 
here to discuss ; the effects were the same, and they 
stood out broad, and bare, and hideous. Men had 
died of want ; had been cast into prison, where they 
still lay ; had committed social crimes, in their great 
need, against their fellow-men. Women had been 
reduced to the lowest extremes of mi.sery and suffering, 
had been transformed into virago.s, where they once 
had been pleasant and peaceful ; children had died off 
by .scores. Homes were dismantled ; Mr. Cox had 
cart-loads of things that stood no chance of being 
redeemed. Families, united before, were scattered now ; 



CONCLUSION. 439 

young men were driven upon idleneas and evil courses; 
young women upon worse, for they were irredeemable. 
Would wisdom for the future be learnt by all this ? 
It was uncertain. 

When Austin Clay returned home that evening, lie 
gave Mrs. Quale notice to quit. She received it in 
a .spirit of resignation, intimating that she had been 
e.Kpectiug it — that lodgings such as hers were not fit 
Ibr Mr. Clay, now that he was Mr. Hunter's partner. 

Austin laughed. '• I suppo.se you think I ought to 
set up a house of my own." 

" I dare say you'll be doing that one of these days, 
sii'," .she responded. 

" I dare say I shall," said Austin, 

" I wonder whether what Mr. Hunter said to-day 
will do any of 'em any service ? " interposed Peter 
Quale. " What do you think, sir ? " 

" 1 think it ought," replied Au.stin. " WHiether it 
will, is another question." 

" It mcjstly lies in this — in the men's being let 
alone," nodded Peter. " Leave 'em to theirselvcs, and 
they'll go on steady enough ; but if them Trade Union 
folks, Sam Shuck and his lot, get over them again, 
there'll be more outbreak.s." 

" Sam Shuck is safe for some months to come." 

" But there's others of his per.suasion that aie not, 
sir. And Sam, he'll be out some time." 

" Quale, I give the hands credit for better -^ense 



i'U) A LIFE'S SECRET 

than to suffer themselves to fall under his yoke again, 
now that he has shown himself in his true colours." 

" 1 don't give 'em credit for any sense at all, when 
they get unsettled notions into tlicir heads," phleg- 
niatically returned Peter Quale. " I'd like to know 
if it's the Union that's helping Shuck's wife and 
children." 

" Do they help her ? " 

" There must be some that help her, sir. The 
woman lives and feeds her family. But there was a 
Trades' Union secretary here this morning, inquiring 
about all this disturbance there has been, and saying 
that the men were wrong to be led to violence by 
^^uch a fellow as Sam Shuck : over-eager to say it, he 
seemed to me. I gave him my opinion back again," 
concluded Peter, pushing the pipe, which he had laid 
aside at his young master's entrance, further under 
the grate. " That Sam Shuck, and such as he, that 
live by agitation, were uncommon 'cute for their own 
interests, and those that listen to them were fools. 
That took him oft", sir." 

" To think of the fools this Daffodil's Delight has 
turned out this last six months ! " Mrs. Quale emphati- 
cally added. "To have lived upon their clothes and 
furniture, their saucepans and kettles, their bedding 
and their children's shoes; when they might, most of 
'em, have earned thirty-three shillings a-week at their 
ordinary work ! When folks can be so blind as that, 



CONCLUSION. 441 

it Is of no use talking to them : black looks white, and 
white black." 

Mr. Clay smiled at the remark, though it had some 
rough reason in it, and went out, taking his way to 
!Mr. Hunter's. 

" Austin ! You must live with me." 

The words came from Mr. Hunter. Seated in his 
easy-chair, apparently asleep, he had overheard what 
Austin was saying in an undertone to Florence — that 
he had just been giving Mrs. Quale notice, and should 
begin house-hunting on the morrow. They turned to 
him at the remark. He had half risen from his chair 
in his eager earnestness. 

"Do you think I could spare Florence ? Where my 
home is, yours and hers must be. Is not this house 
large enough for us ? Why should you seek another ? " 

"Quite large enough, sir. l>ut — but I luul not 
thought of it. It .shall be as you and Florence wi.sh." 

They botli looked at her; she was standing under- 
neath the light of the chandelier, the rich dainask 
colour mantling in her cheeks. 

" I could not give you to him, Florence, if it imolMd 
your leaving me." 

The tears glistened on her eyela.slies. In the impulse 
of the moment she stretched out a hand to each. 
"There is room here fur us all, papa," .she softly 
whi.spered. 



44i A LIFE'S Sl'X'llET. 

Mr. Hunter took both their hands in one of his ; ho 
raised the other in the act of benediction ; the tears, 
Avhicli only (glistened in the ej'es of Florence, were 
liiiling fast from his own. 

" Yes, it shall be the home of all ; and — Florence ! — 
the sooner he comes to it the better. Bless, oh, bles?s 
my children!" he murmured. "And grant that this 
may prove a hap])ier, a more peaceful home for them, 
than it ha.s been for me ! " 

"Amen I " answered Austin, in his inmost heart. 



THE END. 



l.'..>i>...\ ; J-KINTED MY WILLIAM CLoWEd AND fkiNS, LIMITEP, 
M KE »TRSIiT, STAMFWRU STKEET, S.E., AND ORE.iT WISDMILL STREET, W. 



" I care not how I'fien niurtlers ami other mysteries form llic foundation 
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MRS. HENRY WOOD'S NOVELS. 

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